February 21 - Everyone ready for the Friday Highlight? It's ready for you here!

Sea Legs (Updated 09*21*19)

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AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
edited September 2019 in The Sims 3 Stories and Legacies
After a little encouragement from other players I've finally decided to "move" my story from another thread to this one. Moves in quotes simply because I'm not moving anything, just copying the posts and posting them here. It didn't really start out as a "story" per say but I quickly found that I enjoyed sharing my play as a story and then found I enjoyed specifically creating scenes for that story. You can really see things evolve from the first post to the latest post, so hang in through the rough and while you might not find a diamond, you'll hopefully at least find a nice heart shaped amethyst :)

edit: I've been sent several messages asking the same few questions:

Q: Do I use a poser.
A: I do not. I do, on very rare occasion, use NRAAS animation player, but usually I just have the sim perform a task that would illicit a particular movement and then just use moveobjects to position my sims. I have nothing against posers at all, I just like the challenge.


Q: Do I edit my screen caps
A.: Yes. Not all, not even most, but I do edit some. Typical edits involve adjusting lighting, removal of visual cues like increases in a social group (which still show with hideheadlineeffects) fixing eyelashes, and combining elements from multiple pictures into one - for instance if I take one screen shot with 5 sims and sims A, B and C look fine but D and E are engaging in some sort of goofy idle (like the martial arts pose, or flexing their muscles) and then in the next shot D and E sims are great but A is now doing a goofy idle. I'll simply combine the elements of the photo that look like I want them to.

Q: Holy cannoli you write a LOT
A: That's not really a question, but yes, I do. This is a story, and I'm wordy ;)


Q: Holy cannoli you write well
A: Also not a question, but thank you :) I am finding room for improvement every day :)



So it begins:

Today we had the grand opening of Sparkling Sands Casino Resort where Karlie and Rajan celebrated by christening the wedding arch. First, A few random wedding photos, then I'll post some of the resort photos in a separate post :)

If you'd like an introduction to the members of my story, you can find it here : https://forums.thesims.com/en_US/discussion/comment/16984209#Comment_16984209

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So simple, so beautiful

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Oh Niella, you're such a clown.


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The wedding party:
Connor Antoniou, Rajan Patel, Karlie Patel, Niella Antoniou

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Over the threshold, into the luxury suite for the night and off to Egypt tomorrow!


To see the casino remodel pics you can find them linked here:https://forums.thesims.com/en_US/discussion/comment/16994496#Comment_16994496
Post edited by AbellaKellaher on

Comments

  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    Today the gang arrived in Egypt late afternoon. Niella was so happy to see her dad, having been separated since he moved back to Egypt to find her mother while Niella was at university. Though Niella was born here, she doesn't remember much about her exotic homeland. ZDMYcgD.jpg



    After a good long hug, Niella finally introduced Connor to Dad. Even though they'd never met, Niella knew they'd hit it off immediately.
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    The guys set to work, straight away, helping Ammon's search for Niella's mother by upgrading his appliances to not need to be cleaned and improving their quality
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    Meanwhile, Niella sends Karlie that knowing glance when it's clear that her dad has been alone too long.
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    The girls immediately set to spending some time with him to help bring him out of his shell. It's not long before the paparazzi arrive
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    While he's getting his plate for dinner, Connor overhears Niella tell her dad that she can't wait to start a family and Connor can't help but melt at the thought of becoming parents with her.
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    After a late dinner everyone calls it a night.
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    The next day Niella talks the gang into taking Ammon out fishing. He loves to fish but not many people in Egypt have a fondness for the sport. Knowing that it's one of Connor's favorite pastimes, she secretly hopes they'll be able to bond. Dad eagerly whisks everyone off to "The prettiest place in Egypt!" for some early morning angling.
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    Raj finds a shady spot to strum a few cords while Ammon and Connor discuss the types of fish in the area. Karlie blushes as she watches her new husband play one of her favorite melodies.
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    Niella sneaks away while the boys bait up their hooks. The guys are getting along famously and Niella's never been happier
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    Roj is kind of wishing he had stuck around for that "local fish" conversation. He's a bit shocked when he reels in a young crocodile!!
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    Awwww, a little floof ball!!
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    Group photo time!
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    While the gang listens to Ammon talk about the lore around the Pyramid of the Sky, Niella studies the hieroglyphs. Knocking on the wall to see how solid it is, she's amazed when the floor starts to tremble, mechanisms grind to life, and the wall descends into the ground with a low rumble. Hundreds of sims have searched for the entrance and somehow Niella instinctively knew where to tap!
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    Almost as soon as Niella and Connor spot a key stone on a stone pedastal in the corner, Karlie jumps (literally) at the chance to get in the water and dives into the pool in their way.
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    While Connor gets excited about exploring the pyramid, Raj interrupts
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    Uh guys, it's getting pretty dark. I don't know if I want to go exploring a pyramid that's been sealed for hundreds of years in the dead of night.
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    They decide he's right and head back. After Ammon drags his tired body off to bed Karlie talks Raj into a midnight dip
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    While Niella and Connor gaze at the gorgeous night sky.
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    And this is when you know you're meant to be together - when after an exhausting but adventurous day you both drift off to sleep happy for every sore muscle you have.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    Whew, had some technical difficulties that kept me from being able to spend much time here, I have like 152K posts to catch up on! Until then I'll post my updates spoiler mode because there's a LOT and important stuff happening! :) Unfortunately I totally forgot to take pics of the gang going back to the Pyramid of the Sky, but oh well. The day after THAT...



    Niella and Karlie were dying to check out the marketplace shops so Niella's dad (Ammon) gave them directions and arranged to meet them there after a quick errand. While they waited Karlie tried her hand at snake charming. Though Raj was proud of his wife's bravery, the gang soon realized there wasn't even a snake in the basket. Good try though, Karlie!
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    It wasn't long before Ammon arrived but by then Karlie had already been recognized! Who knew that when she took on renovating a dumpy little vacation spot and turned it into a beautiful 5 star getaway that fame would follow?!
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    Leona Helmsley eat your heart out, people love Karlie!
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    It was incredibly warm so they retreated to the shade of the marketway to browse, scattering to seek out their own special treasures.
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    Raj was immediately drawn to the beautiful ornate vases and statues
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    Connor, on the other hand, being an acclaimed author with over 18 hits and best sellers under his belt, honed in on a beautiful marble Arabian horse bookend. It was a bit more than Connor wanted to spend but well worth the price for an actual Egyptian artifact to showcase with his massive book collection.
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    Thankfully Ammon caught him just in time! From his work with the Department of Antiquities he'd become particularly adept at spotting replicas. Ammon was able to haggle the price down to something much more reasonable for Connor, and Connor still got a beautiful bookend to remember his first trip to Egypt.
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    Niella picked up some local spices as a thank you gift for Karlie's mom, Shari, for watching Piggy Girl while they're in Egypt. Shari's favorite food in the whole world is Shwarma and now she'll be able to make it whenever she likes with spices right from Egypt!
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    Ammon had to step away for a phone call so the gang sat down for a quick bite at the kafyh. Karlie could immediately taste the Egyptian influence in her mom's cooking growing up. Who knew?!
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    After a bite Connor stepped off to the bookstore and then he caught up with Ammon to play a game of chess. Bumping into Raj along the way, Connor told him the acoustics of the book shop would be a perfect place to practice the song Raj had been working on. On his way there Raj was recognized as the most recent addition to the Sportsball Hall of Fame, which made his day. Plus Connor was right, the acoustics were amazing!
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    When they got back home to Ammon's house, Raj surprised Ammon with a gift he had bought him... A lightly used leopard print acoustic guitar. "An AUTHENTIC antique Egyptian guitar! I bought it from the book merchant for only $150! Can you believe that!? But keep that on the DL, his boss doesn't like him selling anything but books from the shop..." Ammon smiled, genuinely charmed and decided NOT to tell Raj the truth. It was a Sonaflux after all, and they go for $600 brand new. "Just as long as you can give me some lessons, Rajan." "You got it, Mr. Annippe!"
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    Later that night he did just that
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    Two nights before leaving Egypt the girls decided to have an adventure "sleepover" by grabbing Niella's dad's expedition gear and camping out in the newly discovered basement of the Great Pyramid. Her dad's work had put him charge of the excavation project and he knew that the last of the team had pulled out the week before. Right as they were tossing their sleeping gear into the tent, Karlie ambushed Niella *biff!*
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    Right after that, Niella showed Karlie her own moves *ffWmP!!*
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    Battle ensued until the two plead truce in a heap of giggles. Near the end of a delicious dinner of delicious grilled red herring from their recent fishing trip and roasted marshmallows for dessert (of course) Niella, looking down into the fire, told Karlie that she had always wanted a sister growing up. It was starting to get mushy before Karlie hit Niella smack on the forehead with a marshmallow and said "heads up! Time for ghost stories!" But Niella could tell Karlie felt the same, it reminded her of the way her dad would say or do something silly when he'd start to get emotional if she asked about her mom.
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    Turning off the lantern, and sticking a flashlight under her chin, Karlie said "It happened 200 years ago in Tennessee on the farm of a man named "John Bell..."
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    Niella had to admit that Karlie was good at this ghost story stuff. Karlie was weaving a tale of a haunted child and a witch and Niella was realllly becoming captivated...
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    and right before Andrew Jackson was about to fall into the witch's trap... *skkkkrrrrrratch* "MmmmMmm"
    *click*
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    The boys clicked the girl's lantern on. "I thought you were a mummy!" Niella shouted, as she threw her arms around Connor. "That was the point, Ni" Karlie chuckled and hugged Raj.
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    "Oh you guys think it's funny, eh? Well let me tell you about what my dad told me about this.. very.. place.." and put the flashlight under her own chin.
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    Niella wasn't half bad as a story teller herself
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    In fact Raj was still thinking about the slow, dragging sound of Pharoah Khufu's bandaged corpse as it stalked the man who had taken from his sarcophagus as they all climbed into the tent for bed... "Bah, there's no such thing..."
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member



    After spending the night in the Great Pyramid the gang started the day with some freshly made campfire cinnamon rolls (fyi I make these irl, SO good!)
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    Connor and Niella, already pretty adept in detecting and disarming traps, lead the way further into the tomb, down what looked to be an undiscovered passageway. Niella tried to phone her dad but the depth and the thickness of the tomb walls made service impossible. Born with an adventurous spirit, Niella found the excitement just too irresistible to leave before she was positive every last inch had been explored.
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    While Connor, Niella and Karlie were brainstorming ideas to try and force a door open without compromising anything, Raj, noticing the pattern on the floor made a skull and noticing a hole where one of the eyes should be reached in Scooby Doo style while saying "I wonder what this is here for..." and *click* the lock on the door releasing echoed down the hollow corridors. Connor and Niella sighed with relief knowing the traps that had been found throughout the tomb.
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    The door opened into a vast pitch black chamber, save two statues prominently ablaze in front of an ominous archway. Without missing a beat Niella stepped through, beelining towards a stone chest at the far end of the room... Without noticing...
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    the chamber's guardian! Just as it's rancid and decayed tattered wrapped hand was about to drop on Niella's unaware shoulder...
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    Karlie rushed the putrid thing like a hungry varsity college sportsball all star.
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    And with not much more effort than an Irish Pub sportsball conversation turned the monster into a pile of dust and debris. Poking the pile with her toe, Karlie couldn't help but remember Niella's ghost story the night before.. "Mummies don't exist" she quoted herself. Silence hung in the air like a tossed penny before both Karlie and Niella burst into laughter.
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    Their last morning in Egypt the gang had an early flight back so they met Niella's dad at the site of his current project, The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. After a very quick tour, Ammon asked his assistant to snap a picture of the gang before saying their goodbyes.
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    "Oh how I missed you my little one." "I'm not so little anymore Dad" Niella warmly joked. "I know I know. And soon you'll start growing your own family and having your own little one.." his voice trailed off as he gave Niella an extra long hug. Ammon realized he would soon have to make a very hard decision... Stay in Egypt until he finally found Niella's mother, missing out on watching his daughter grow into the courageous, smart, beautiful, compassionate, successful woman her mother would have been immensely proud of or abandoning the search for his one true love but being able to be an active part of Niella's life... Shaking off the decision for another time, he kissed his daughter on the forehead and stepped back.
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    "Keep practicing those jams I taught you Mr. Anippe! Remember, Shakraba!" Raj gestured. "Shakraba!" Ammon mimicked back.

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    Connor was last to say goodbye. "I'm not sure if Niella told you, but my very first book was a science fiction novel about an awkward but genius scientist and his strong adventurous daughter stopping an evil plot to use an ancient power to build a laser so powerful it could blow up the world from the moon. I guess you can kind of figure out who my inspiration was. I'd like you to have the very first copy that was published." "Wait," Ammon said "So was it the father or the daughter that was awkward?" Connor chuckled and then realized Ammon was honestly asking. Thinking fast he answered "yeah I kind of mixed it up a bit there, for drama." "Oh that makes sense," Ammon replied "otherwise your scientist would have stolen the whole show!" "You know it, Dad!" "Call me Mr. Anippe" Ammon replied. Connor chuckled nervously, not knowing whether or not Mr. Anippe was serious until Ammon's stern look cracked into a giant smile.

    [/spoiler]

    After a long flight home...


    Karlie gave her mom, Shari, a big squeeze. "Perfect timing!" Shari said "I'm just about to pull dinner out of the oven! Come, sit down and tell me all about your trip!"
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    Connor took a minute to first give Piggy Girl a big hello hug. He knew she had been in good hands being looked over by Shari but Piggy Girl very was happy to see him none-the-less.
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    Raj was both pleased and flattered that Shari had made his favorite, grilled salmon, for dinner. She hadn't been his mother-in-law for long but Raj already felt welcomed into her family with open arms.
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    Halfway through dinner, Shari sprung her trap. Coyly she looked at Raj and said "So... When are you going to make me a Grandma, Raj?" Raj coughed out a mouth full of food before turning deep red. "MOM! Behave!" Karlie scolded before giggling and turning bright red herself.
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    After dinner, as Raj cleaned up, Niella gave Shari the spices she had picked up at the Egyptian street market. "Karlie told me how much you liked shwarma, Mama Shari. Thank you so much for taking such good care of our Piggy Girl for us. I think she might like you better than us now!"
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    "Awww, sweet girl, any time. I love that silly pooch!"
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    As Niella climbed into her own bed for the first time in over two weeks she felt her entire body sink into the soft comfort of familiarity. She loosed a long and contented sigh and then turned to look at Connor. Poor guy had already drifted off, book still in hand. She gently slipped it from his grip and pulled the covers up over him.
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    Her own head barely hit the pillow before she drifted off into a much needed sleep. It was a grand adventure, but it was good to be home.
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    To be continued :)

  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member

    The morning after returning Karlie woke bright and early. Something about sleeping in your own bed always makes you feel more refreshed. Noticing Shari filling Piggy Girl's bowl, Karlie said "Mom! I'm glad your up, want to run a quick errand with me?" and soon the girls set out. They drove the short distance across the small island and Karlie pulled up along side of the road and walked down a driveway to an adorable little beach house made from a combination of brightly colored shipping containers. "Who's house is this?" Shari asked. "I'm suppose to be meeting someone here but..." Karlie trailed off as she stepped onto the porch
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    "Doesn't look like they're here yet." she said peering into a large window. "Karlie Ana Golderberg!" Shari scolded "Patel" Karlie corrected. "Ugh! Karlie Ana Patel stop looking into people's windows!" Karlie giggled.
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    "Looks like we're waaaiting" Karlie said in a sing-song voice when no one responded to the doorbell and bounded down the steps toward a swing set nestled off to the side.
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    While they swang, Karlie confided in her mom. "I'm not sure I'm ready to open the Sands tomorrow." "Oh?" her mom questioned. "Even with all the renovations, it still doesn't feel like it's mine, not like Aléjate does. And I'm still not at all happy with the buffet room." Karlie lamented. "Well I think it's gorgeous, honey. You did an incredible job updating that place. I'm so very proud of you babygirl." Karlie's whole face beamed. "Thanks mama, that means a lot to me." After a minute of silence Karlie said "Well" hopping of the swing "I'm going to go have a look in back. C'mon, you gotta see this."
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    They stepped onto the deck running along the back of the house, as they passed a row of windows Shari couldn't help but glance in. She noticed that the place was almost barren, save a large beautiful dinning set and a quaint little breakfast table under the windows. She felt her cheeks turn red as she remembered scolding Karlie only minutes before for the same exact thing and she quickly turned away... and was so stunned by what she saw she gasped
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    Before them was arguably the most incredible view in all of Isla Paradiso. "Woww.." she whispered. "I know, right? Lucky ducks." It made Shari miss Sunlit Tides a little more and little less, as if that made any sense. Shari was just thankful that she was moving to somewhere as beautiful as Isla Paradiso to be near her daughter rather than some crowded and noisy like Bridgeport. Though she was sure she'd have to find a place to rent in town until she could save enough for a car, hopefully the money she'd save on car payments and gas would be enough to actually buy a small place someday. Maybe a houseboat like the kids, but smaller. Or a cute little beach shack.. Shari's thoughts were snapped back to the here and now when Karlie sighed in frustration and excused herself to make a phone call. "This might take a minute mama, why don't you sit and drink in this amazing view" and then stepped back down to the front of the house for some privacy.
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    Shari sat back in the lounge chair. She did drink in the amazing view and her thoughts drifted to Karlie's father, her alhabu. "He would have realllly been wowed by this" she let herself think before she shook his image from her mind. Better to let those ghosts go and live here and now with Karlie than to even remember them... If she could even survive remembering them both.. She closed her eyes and let the warmth of the sun and the sound of the waves soothe her..
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    It wasn't long before she drifted off into a little cat nap until the sound of footsteps climbing up onto the deck woke her. She hopped up, startled but was relieved to see Karlie... But Karlie still looked frustrated...
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    "Are they not coming?? Who's house is this, anyway??" Shari asked. "Well, that's the thing, Mama..."
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    ".. It's yours" Karlie said, all signs frustration being replaced by a giant mischievous and joyous smile. "Whattt?" Shari asked, dazed. "No really, why are we here??"
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    "We've been waiting for the moving truck with your things from home, er, our old house, but it looks like they won't be here until tomorrow. There are some things inside. I ordered a few things and it looks like the old owners left a few things. Wanna go in?" Karlie said coyishly. "What, what?? Are you serious?? Are you kidding??" Shari couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Comes with the job" Karlie said. "What job??" "Who else am I going to trust to run Aléjate Shores while I'm focused on making the Sands run smoothly?" Karlie mocked incredulously.
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    "Oh my sweet girl!" Shari wrapped her arms around Karlie. "Of all of the beautiful souls in this universe, I'm so lucky yours was the one I got to raise."
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    "Lead the way, dear. Give me the million dollar tour" Shari said, still fighting back tears a little.
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    "So, uh, this is your new TV. Your furniture was suppose to be here. I had the real estate agent take measurements and everything should fit perfectly.
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    "I ordered this dining set so we could all come over for dinner but this cute little kitchenette must have been left behind."
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    Shari whistled "There's that view again
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    Upstairs they stopped by the second bedroom. "This all was left too I guess. I can have the guys swing by tomorrow and grab anything you don't want, but I was thinking this would make a good guest room or even an office if you like."
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    "And tada! Your all new bedroom! This set just called your name to me." "It's just perfect Karlie, truly."
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    "Listen Mama, I hate to gift and run but I've got to meet Raj at the stadium for some charity event he's doing for sick kids. You're welcome to stay at the houseboat tonight if you want to wait until your furniture comes, but there are a few groceries in the fridge and should be a bottle of wine that Niella made on the counter. There's just one more thing... We all talked it over and we think we'd all feel better if you brought Piggy with you - that is if you want to! She loves you, and this is sooo close. I'm going to be SO busy with the Sands and Ni and Connor are doing their own things, having babies and writing books and saving the oceans and whatnot. And most importantly she deserves a yard."
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    "Really?? Are you sure?? I mean, you can for sure see her whenever you want! I will spoil her so much!" Karlie giggled at her mom's reaction. "So," Shari asked "should I just bring her here tonight with me in a taxi or did you guys want to drop her off or..." Karlie slapped her forehead and then gestured downstairs "I almost forgot! That cute red pickup truck in the garage is yours too, keys are in the visor! But really Mama, I have to split, I'm going to be late as it is!"
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    Shari couldn't stop herself from one last giant hug through tears and Karlie was out the door.
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    Shari returned to the houseboat and packed the few things she had in the guest room.
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    "How 'about it girl? You ready for flowers and bugs and grass?"
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    "I guess this means yes" Shari chuckled
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    Back at her new house, Shari unloaded her stuff and then ran a bath for a nice long soak, something she hadn't been able to do in far too long.
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    Remembering spotting an old rocking chair sitting in the corner of the garage, Shari dragged it in front of her new fancy schmancy TV. She didn't feel guilty about her daughter's indulgence. After all, Karlie was a self made millionaire and she knew all Shari had given up to give Karlie the best life she could. With Piggy girl already snoozing in her doggy bed, Shari clicked on her TV... Her TV... The first night here and she already felt like it was home.
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    To be continued :)
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    Everyone back at the house boat were all jarred awake by the entire boat shaking and what sounded like the piercing whistle of a car sized bottle rocket. Grabbing their ears they rushed outside.
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    Niella was the first out. Looking up towards the sky just in time she was instantly paralyzed with fear
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    A giant meteor tore through the resort tower like a bullet through tissue paper, a deafening blast following in it's wake
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    It smashed into the patio just behind the show stage, starting a chain reaction of explosions throughout the main building as the building's gas lines exploded. Shrapnel and smaller meteors rained down on the resort, and soon fires were raging all throughout the property.
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    The fire department was quick to the scene, and heroically fought the endless blazes relentlessly
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    and the flames yielded...
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    After forcing themselves to move and throwing on whatever clothes they could grab, Karlie, Raj, Connor and Niella rushed to the scene just as the firefighters were putting away their gear
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    Although Raj stopped to ask the firefighters if it was safe and to get details, Karlie picked up speed and ran passed him. "Stop her, Connor!" Niella shouted, worried and then rushed after them herself.
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    Karlie got just onto the property when the ringtone for her mother came loud and clear. Stopping, she answered knowing that her mother would be sick with worry. "Mom, it's ok - I'M ok.." she answered. "Oh thank God! Thank you God!" Shari cried "I was so worried oh my God what happened?!?" "The Sands was hit by a meteor!! We saw it all! I just got here, I haven't been able to see how much damage we suffered yet but yes, I'm ok Mama." Karlie reassured her. "I'm just pulling up now babygirl, I see the firetrucks! Are you sure you're ok, is everyone ok??!?"
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    Niella continued past Karlie and turned the corner to head toward where it looked like the initial strike was and stopped dead in her tracks, mouth agape as she gasped, followed by Karlie who immediately burst into tears
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    Sobbing, she stared at the enormous crater in the middle of her resort.
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    "KARLIE!" She spun around and was instantly embraced by Shari. "Oh Mama it's all gone, it's ALL GONE!" she wept. Shari just held her and held her and slowly Karlie pulled herself together.
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    Still sniffling Karlie looked at her mom.. "All my hard work... Just... Gone...
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    "I can't imagine how you feel right now. I can't imagine how hurt you are. But we're going to get up just like we always do, right? I know you, I know you're smart so I know this place is completely covered. Acts of nature HAS to be covered, right? So yes, it'll take a lot of hard work but look how much you learned last time? Things will go so much faster, I know they will. And remember what you said just yesterday?? That this place still didn't feel like it was your own?? Now you can make it your own" Shari consoled Karlie. Karlie sniffled.
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    Niella immediately dialed the head of her research department, Javiera Batista. "No we're going to need WHOLE team Javi. I need you to get a meeting scheduled first thing tomorrow. Yep, yep that's fine, have him run the store while we get on top of this. But I want Hamada there. Get Lopita, too, we're going to need her dirty work."
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    "Thank GOD this happened when the resort was closed, but after your beautiful wedding..." Shari sighed with sudden relief. A look of terror came over Karlie's face, on the other hand. She suddenly burst past Shari. Shari quickly dashed after her.
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    When Shari caught up, Karlie was standing under the wedding arch she and Raj had pledged their lives to each other under. Karlie grabbed her chest, overcome with emotion and stuttered through tears "I... I .. was afraid it was.. I was afraid we had lost this, our..."
    "K Bear..." Raj's deep but calm voice called from behind
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    "Hey now. I'm here. You're here. That's what matters.." he said gently as he wiped a tear from under her eye. Tenderly he took her face in his hands and he said it again "You're here. I'm here. WE are here, K Bear. And you know what? Look? So is this silly little bamboo arch. That means we're stronger than a meteor storm baby. Nothing, and I mean NOTH-ING can stop us, understand?" and he wrapped her up into his arms.
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    Shari took Karlie back to the houseboat and sat with her most of the day, trying to keep Karlie's spirits up, leaving only when she knew she had to get home to let Piggy Girl out. Niella, Connor, and Raj spent the day survey the damage, turning off water lines, dealing with insurance companies and the media, and trying to salvage what they could. It was pretty clear, however, that the damage was massive and extensive work was in store.
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    When Raj finally got home, he could hear Karlie softly crying at the top of the stairs and went up to her. "I'm sorry" she sniffled, trying to compose herself. "I just feel like the last 6 months have all been for nothing and it's still just really hard..." "K Bear, you have nothing to be sorry for" Raj placed his hands gently on her arms and boosted her up a little... "It's been a real 🌺🌺🌺🌺 of a Monday.. " "the jerkiest" Karlie interjected "yeah the jerkiest! You have every right to be upset. But remember what your mom said, you can make it yours now. I promise, as soon as you feel back to yourself you're going to get excited, just like you always do, and pour your heart into the NEW Sands, YOUR Sands. I promise everything is going to be good. Now I'm going to go run you a bubble bath and you're going to let this day melt away" scooping her into his arms once again.
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    He lit some candles and drew her a bath. Karlie knotted her hair into a bun and slipped into the bubbles. She drew her knees into her chest and rested her chin on them. It all hurt so bad, but maybe Mom and Raj were right. Maybe the silver lining of this could end up being the best thing that's ever happened to The Sands. To her... To her and the Sands... Just then, Raj stepped into the bathroom pouring a glass of wine "I figured you might like something to sip on while you soak" and placed the tray with the bottle and glass next to her on the floor as he kissed her on the forehead before stepping out. "No.." she thought, "THAT is the best thing that has ever happened to me." And maybe, just maybe he was right... Maybe a NEW Sands is exactly what the universe wanted from her... She let the last worry of the day slip away with every pop of a bubble and in it's place an idea took shape. She started to form pictures to her thoughts. She envisioned a resort of luxury, beautifully landscaped. She imagined an upscale but earthy Bistro, an elegant and crisp buffet area, a casino area that spoke the language of kings and queens to pages and peasants... Yes maybe, just maybe, her husband was right...
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    I know it was long, but I felt like there were just so many screen caps that added to the story that it was really hard to leave some of them out... Hope you all felt it was worth it. Thankfully most of it's pictures :)


    To be continued :)
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    The next morning Niella arrived at the science facility before dawn. She expected her team first thing but loved the lab when it was dark and quiet. She felt she did her best scientific work when she was alone, before the responsibility of running the facility and managing her team kicked in for the day. She turned on some classical music and set about establishing baseline numbers of water samples that had been gathered by Masao while she was in Egypt. That man was methodical if anything and in this case it had paid off.
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    Her team - Director of the facility and the head of the mental and physical sciences department Javiera Batista (Javi for short,) head of the Earth Sciences lab and skilled marine biologist Masao Hamada, and Lopita Alto who specialized in petrology and ecology, arrived to her small office (predictably) early and Niella wasted no time getting the meeting underway. She was heartbroken for her best friend's loss but she couldn't keep from being excited at the chance to study the event. It's rare that such events happen without NASA knowing about them ahead of time, but right in her own back yard. "Literally" she thought to herself and smiled.
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    It wasn't long before everyone was up on their feet, brainstorming paths of action. Niella had already ordered the field crew to gather every piece that they could locate and bring it back to the facility but that would take at least a day, maybe more. Until then there was plenty to be done. Lopita could manage the field crew virtually while collecting a sample of insects, turtles and water lizards in the area. Lopita, crazy fan girl of all things rock, understood but felt a twinge of jealousy at the field crew gathering the meteorite samples. The meteorites, after all, would be heavy and require multiple people, lifting equipment. It only takes one to dig up a few beetles and catch some painted turtles. Besides, she would have had to give her best techniques up and she prided herself at being the best judge of healthy dirt dwellers. Masao would need to gather some marine life samples while Niella and Javi began processing the water samples Niella gathered on her way to the lab. Their primary objective over the next few days was to determine whether or not the impact would negatively affect the different eco systems in the area.
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    The team went about their tasks dutifully and even with a sense of excitement. Even though their samples weren't from outer space, it was still a provocative enough opportunity to study what effects, if any, the event had caused to the local eco systems. But everyone's excitement to get a look at the rocks themselves was a constant undercurrent.
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    At home, Karlie found herself leafing through one of her hospitality and tourism textbooks from college. It wasn't long before her mind was racing with ideas. She dragged Connor's old drafting table out of storage and spent the next two days putting her ideas, crudely, to paper. She was no pro, but it'd be much easier to talk to an architect if he could see exactly what she meant.
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    As soon as Niella heard that the largest meteor had been delivered to the Earth Sciences lab, she rushed over. Niella whistled and said "Holy gigantic space rock batman, well aren't you impressive?" "Uh, yeah" Lopita said, slightly distracted. "But there appears to be something inside..." she said staring at her scanner trying to make sense of the readings.
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    "Can I see?" Niella asked. "Have at it," Lopita said "I've run it twice" she gave a yawn. Everyone had been working 'round the clock and were a little touchy. Niella blew it off. This was Lopita's wheelhouse after all. "Measure thrice, cut once?" Niella jested and ran the scan, though she wasn't surprised when it showed exactly the same readings. "Well then, I guess we'd better try to see what that is, don't you think?" Niella said coyly. "I thought you'd never ask!" Lopita playfully replied, already grabbing her blow torch.
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    The process was slow. Lopita would examine the rock, running her fingers along the surface looking for possible fracture points, heat those areas up, gently tap a carbide pitching chisel into the heated area, let it cool and then pry a wedge. Niella knew not to rush her - Lopita was as much an artist as a scientist and using the natural stress lines reduced the over all damage. As pieces were pried away, they were hauled off to the side by Niella and Masao who had since caught wind and joined them.
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    It wasn't long before Lopita reached a manageable size. A metal table was moved into place and Lopita brought out her scanner to get a more accurate location of whatever was inside. Suddenly a slight whirring sound started emanating from the rock. It rose with intensity until there was the sound of intense static followed by a crisp "pop" and a small piece of rock fell away from the larger piece and seemed to be emitting a green glow.
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    Niella ran to the other side of the table to get closer. When Lopita looked down at her readings she set the scanner on the table and walked away. "Where are you going??" Niella called after her. "To get Alex..." "What??" Niella cried back. "To get Alexander! Whatever that is, it's tech!" Lopita shouted and disappeared around the corner.
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    Jamie Alexander, Alex by reputation, was the Lab's "Head of Technology" though her underling, Akone Kahale actually ran the day to day of the department and Alex was left to her own brilliantly "quirky" devices. If the famous Doc Brown from the movie about the sports car that went back in time had an actual real life grand daughter, it'd be Alex. She was brilliant, slightly ahead of her time, and quite a character. "Oooooh" Jamie Alexander exclaimed, appearing right behind Niella from out of nowhere. Before Niella could react, Alex slid in front of Niella "Well aren't you impressive, my beautiful little friend" She cooed to the glowing fragment. "That's what I said!" Niella chuckled.
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    Alex reached in to pick up the little rock when another static discharge crackled, giving Alex's hand a slight zap. Alex jerked her hand back and shook it. "Youch! I knew better, I just didn't care.., Hand me my tongs, dear.." she said to no one in particular. And her attention was immediately back on the little rock. Everyone leaned in a little when a small metallic disc fell from the fragment.
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    As though the last 30 seconds hadn't happened, Alex reached down and picked up the disc. The second it was in the palm of her hand it beeped twice and clicked. Instantly the holographic image of some sort of... green... video game character appeared above the disc. It began talking to Alex, at Alex, and looking from person to person in the room as though it was talking to them.. Though no one could understand what it was saying, it became clear that it had some sort of advanced AI and it was eagerly trying to tell them all something important. It repeated some of the same phonic phrases. slowing it's speed each time, as though it was talking to a child. It squeaked what clearly meant "goodbye" and the image disappeared with the same click. Twirling around to face the others, Alex shook her finger excitedly "Here me out..." she said, formulating what she was going to say. "We... We don't yet know what this is, right?? It could be anything right? A new video game coming out this Christmas, or some prankster's idea of how to cure boredom... "Yeah, a prank embedded a half a meter into solid rock" Lopito chortled, though she knew what was coming and knew it was the right thing to do. Let me... Let us figure out what it is before we make any judgment calls about what to do. Let me take this back to my lab and let me see if I can figure out how to at least operate it." Niella agreed, but added "Javi's department is going to have to get it ASAP, Alex, so they can see if they can decode the message and we can see what we're dealing with. And I don't have to remind everyone this is 100% covered by the NDA you all signed! Not a word to anyone without prior authorization from me or Javi" "yeah yeah yeah" Alex waved off from behind her, already scooting out the door and toward her lab. Niella stepped into her office and closed the door, dialing her phone as the door closed behind her. "Uh, hi Dad... Are you sitting??"
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    She caught Ammon up as quickly as she could speak. He was an incredibly skilled techno-engineer, who had been working for an archaeology company to use his inventions to help excavate and explore tombs in Egypt ever since moving back. "Do not, under any circumstances, report this to NASA until I've gotten there. I've got sabbatical coming up but if they won't let me take it then they can just fire me for taking it anyway!" Ammon exclaimed. Niella giggled at her dad's sudden feistyness. "I mean it little one" Ammon pleaded more sincerely. "This is really big, and we just need to find out what we've got. I'll be there as soon as I can." They said their goodbyes and Niella hung up the phone. Really big?? No, this wasn't just really big, this was the beginning of something amazing. Niella could feel it in her bones.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    The days that followed were a frenzy of activity in the labs. After Niella caught Javiera up on their discovery, the team went about specific tasks for study. Lopita ran some entomological tests on the soil embedded in the meteor that was loosened by her earlier work. Masao began running analysis comparisons, and Alex started working on "something that will help us look inside the little bugger."
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    Javiera and Emily started working to decipher the language being spoken by the projection and documenting their work
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    The late evenings fell into a familiar routine. They'd sit in the break room eating their various packed lunches and try to discuss other topics, world events, politics, sports, but everyone's excitement about their various tasks would bring them around to work conversations sooner than later. Whichever table finished first would get up, push back the table and chairs, and someone would wheel in the white board and start presenting their findings to the team. Sometimes it was everyone, sometimes only a few would join in while the others got back to their own work. Oddly no one seemed frazzled, no one got on anyone else's nerves, no one's lack of sleep caused someone to be snappy. In fact Niella couldn't remember ever seeing her team so in sync with each other. Brainstorming sessions were more productive than ever. Niella chalked it up to the fact that her team had never been so excited about the same general project and counted her lucky stars.
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    While everyone continued their work, Niella found herself spending more time on the phone fending off intervention of various government agencies. Days were long and everyone found themselves catching cat naps in the midst of 17-18 hour days. Alex practically moved in, curling up in the sleep study chamber every night, while others would catch some Z's in the employee lounge and their offices.
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    Niella had actually just nodded off when her cell started ringing. It was Connor. Yawning, she answered the phone. "Hi honey. I was just dreaming about you, you were telling me I'm working too hard" Niella joked, still blinking the fuzziness from her head. "Funny you should mention that," Connor chuckled "Mama Shari wants us all to meet her at the Paradise. She says she misses us." "I just grabbed the dry cleaning on the way in today so you couldn't have planned it better, I have my favorite sundress!" Niella replied. "Fannn Tastic! Oh and hey could you swing by and grab me? The 5,000 is acting up and they're already there." "Uh, sure? Right now? Oh geeze it's 7:00 already?!" Niella exclaimed when she noticed the time. "Yep, be there shortly." She drew her office blinds and quickly slipped into her sun dress, figuring it'd take less time than running upstairs when she got home. She clicked off the lights to her office and headed home. waving goodbye to Masao and Lopita as she passed the Earth Sciences lab, still hard at work. She beamed with almost a maternal pride in her team and how dedicated they were.
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    As she stepped onto the dock at home, she could hear music from the back deck of the houseboat. It was a beautiful night, she could understand why he was waiting back there. "He probably thought he'd have to wait for me to get ready, after all, not realizing I already changed" she thought to herself. As she rounded the corner she saw Connor with drinks and candles waiting for her. "What's this??" she blushed as she hugged him. "Well," he said coyly "you've been working so hard I thought you could do with a night in. So I sent Karlie and Raj out to the Paradise Pub to hang with Karlie's mom so that we could have the place to ourselves.." He led her by the hand over to the table and handed her a drink.
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    Standing there awkwardly, he thought "I should probably make a toast... How can I be so good at writing words for imaginary people but so bad at trying to tell Ny how I feel about her."
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    He closed his eyes and just let the words come... "I want to say that the day we got married was the best thing that's ever happened to me... I want to say that but I can't... Because every single day I get to be with you is the best thing that's ever happened to me, every single day. Every single day we're together I love you more. I am inspired by you more, I am amazed by you more, I'm even more blessed than the day before because I get to spend one more day with you." He leaned in, opened his eyes and staring deep into hers he said "I mean it Ny, you are my whole world..." and gently clinked his glass against hers.
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    Niella swallowed hard as tears started to well in her eyes. She hoped he didn't expect her to make a toast anything like that, or even one at all because she seemed to have a giant stone in her throat... Before she could even start to form words Connor took the drink from her hand, set it on the table, pulled her to him and started slow dancing.
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    They said nothing as they danced, the sun set behind them and the warmth of the day faded into the cool crisp of night. They didn't need to. Staring into each other's eyes they could see everything they ever needed to say, everything they ever needed to hear. Soon it was just them, the candles and the moonlight, the entire world faded away.
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    Connor twirled Niella in and dipped her with amazing ease, placing a kiss on her lips that seemed to make time stand still. He brought her back up and without a word scooped her off her feet and carried her upstairs to their bedroom.
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    Placing Niella gently on the bed and laying down beside her, he wrapped his arm around her and said "I meant it when I said you were my whole world... But I think we both know we have room for one more" he pulled her in for a kiss...
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    Back at the lab Lopita and Masao were still hard at work when out of the corner of her eye Lopita noticed something glowing and moving among some of the debris that had been separated from the biggest chunk earlier in the week. She had been using it for her tests and Masao had been hard at work running analysis's on numerous samples.
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    She walked over, bent down and scooped it up. "Well hello little guy, did you catch a ride on a rock? You must be so confused..."
    And then she noticed he wasn't alone. One light beetle catching a ride on a rock she could believe, but not 4...
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    ...



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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    Authors note: This is where in my writing journey I decided to stick with image panels of 3-6 smaller images, sort of graphic novel style. I hope you find it adds to the ease and flow of the writing vs images :)



    Niella's day started with Javiera and Emily updating her on their progress in decoding the language used by the projection of the little green creature. "The challenge," Javiera explained "is that it doesn't seem to be an entire language, but rather only a fragment of it. If I had to estimate I'd say a solid half to two thirds of it is missing. But the biggest discovery is that we think it's not actually a projection. Or rather it is, but it's a projection of a sentient intelligence within the disc itself. An AI with an actual functioning feeling personality, so to speak." "You mean to tell me that the AI in that disc is alive?!" Niella knew that the advances in AI had been impressive but she had serious doubts that they had actually been able to create sentience. "Well it might depend on your definition of life. But it thinks, it reacts to it's environment in real time, it demonstrates emotions. Damien seems to be learning about us as we're learning about him." Emily explained. "Damien, huh?" Niella lightly chided.
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    Just then Alex burst into the office, apparently taking "Office Casual" to an entire new level in what appeared to be an old college TShirt and a pair of yoga pants. She pushed passed Emily and Javiera saying "Glad to see you could finally make it, I thought you'd taken the day off..." "Well I came in an hour early today and have been here for 3 hours. What time do you think I should come in?" Niella replied sardonically. "Never mind that, we can discuss work ethics later, I have something to show you with the disc... Now where did I put it.." she trailed, patting her non-existent pockets. Javiera rolled her eyes "We have it Alex, you handed it back off to us yesterday, remember? Emily has it." Emily placed it on the desk and the familiar green image appeared.
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    "No, not that, this" Alex had pulled what looked like a space age roomba out of nowhere when the women were focused on the disc. She began pushing different buttons and pads. All of the sudden Damian's familiar green image disappeared and was replaced by a slightly different blue image. "Far out! He changes colors!" Emily exclaimed loud enough to be heard throughout the behavioral and physical sciences lab. "So that's what that does" Alex said more to herself than anyone else. "You didn't know what it would do??" Niella said incredulously. "Well not exactly, but I knew we wouldn't blow up. There's no hidden explosives or any detectable weapon. Besides, who'd ever use a kid's video game to conquer the world?" "Ever heard of the Trojan horse?" Niella reminded her. Emily jumped to Damien's defense, insisting he had never displayed anything that even remotely resembled ill will.
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    "Shh!" Javiera shushed. She picked up the disc and listened closely to the projection. "I'm not sure this is Damien" she said after a minute. "This projection isn't using the same language I don't think. Or at least the same words. Many of the same phonetic sounds are there, but I'm not hearing them used in the familiar arrangements..." She continued "and this.. image doesn't seem familiar of it's surroundings as Damien has come to be with our research. No, this one seems to be almost timid... Excuse us ladies, I think Emily and I need to see if maybe this guy has the missing pieces to Damien's language or if it's another language all together or exactly what this means" and turned with Emily to leave the office. As they were walking out, Niella questioned Alex about her attire. "It's my pajamas, of course, what do you wear to bed?" "Alex it's going on 10 a.m., don't you think it's a little early for pajamas and bed?" "10 A.M.?! Heh, I must have worked straight through the night. Heh haven't done that since Marlon Leary talked me into testing out some of his father's theories. Guess I'd better go make myself presentable." and walked out, passing Javiera and Emily already at work.
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    The next couple hours were spent on the minutia that is sometimes required of a science facility director. As Niella headed toward the break room for lunch she passed the Earth Sciences lab and noticed Lopita had collected nearly double the number of insects she had collected from the immediate area of the meteorite strike. Wondering if Lopita was seeing signs of something concerning Niella decided to make a quick detour to find out. Lopita was completely lost in whatever she was doing on the research station, oblivious to Niella's approach. Still concerned, Niella herself was aware only too late that dozens of insects were openly crawling and flying around the Earth Sciences lab. "Lopita! what in the world is going on?! Why have you let all of these insects loose?!" "I didn't" Lopita said, still intensely focused on the screen in front of her. "Lopita!" Niella demanded. "Oh, sorry boss... I, uh, I didn't let these loose" she said, snapping back to reality. "These are meteorite orphans"
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    "Meteorite orphans? Their parents were killed by the meteorites??" "No, more like they were abandoned on them. In their cracks and crevices and even right on the surface. That has, as far as I've been able to tell, never happened before. They are literally coming out of the cracks. And they're maturing with incredible zeal." Lopita explained. "As in an expedited time line?" "No," she clarified "more like if every single one was living in nirvana. Almost every insect's life cycle stages can be lengthened or shortened depending on the various conditions around them. Adequate light, temperature, food, they all play a part. It's as if all of these insects had been given the best possible life conditions. And the really strange thing is that those conditions vary from insect to insect. One insect hatches best in one temperature range, the next another. But all of these insects are maturing as if their own type specific optimums have been met." "Good lord, what exactly is causing this? Do you have any idea??" Niella questioned. "Nope, none so far. But that's not even the strangest thing I've found" Lopita nodded toward her work table.
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    Niella turned around to see the same sort of debris that had become the norm in the Earth Sciences lab since the meteorite strikes - rocks mixed with building remnants. Pulled out alone from this was a piece of oddly, but artificially shaped scrap. Lopita continued "that is. I have no idea what it is. It's an alloy combination that I've never seen anything like and something that is far beyond anything in existence on the planet." "Anything known? Do you mean it's not from this earth??" Niella inquired. "Actually I'm not saying that at all. There are no visible signs of atmospheric entry. No signs of adiabatic compression or atmospheric dissipation, no remnants of fuel or a fusion crust." "So it's .. not from Earth, but not from space?? That makes no sense." "I didn't say it made sense. In fact I said it was strange. What I am saying is that from everything that machine is telling me, it has not traveled through space to get here. That's really all I can tell you at this point"
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    "All of this, the rocks, the metal alloy fragment, the bugs, all lands squarely on my block so I've just been trying to keep up. Don't get me wrong at all, I'm not complaining, I am all in, it's just slow going." Lopita explained "Well I can get you some help, but if you're going to need any new equipment just put in a request with Kahale and I'll see it gets approved. I'll see if Masao can assist you." "Assist?" Lopita seemed surprised. "I know he's technically your boss but this is your wheelhouse, kid. You're lead on this. Don't worry about Hamada, I'm sure he'll understand." Niella found Masao in the aquatics lab, just where she thought she'd find him. The only thing he had to think about was whether or not he had any time sensitive experiments that he couldn't spare time from but really the impact on the aquatic life around the site had gone relatively unharmed. He didn't, however, have to think about following Lopita's lead. Her expertise is why he advocated for her hire in the first place.
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    Niella returned to her office. She knew she had to call her father immediately. She knew he was the only one she could trust. Not only were these discoveries exciting, they were also cause for added concern. A new alloy? A new form of AI? She could easily see how fast discoveries like this could be taken from her by any number of government agencies. And who knows what they'd do with them. No, she needed to make sure she could get as many answers as possible and the one person she knew she could trust was on the other side of the world. She knew it'd be really early there but she wanted to make sure she caught him before he headed out. She shut her office door as his phone started to ring. "Little one?" Ammon questioned groggily. "What time is it? Is everything alright??" "Everything's fine dad. I just needed to get ahold of you before you left..." Niella spent the next few minutes explaining, as best she could, everything that had happened. "Dad, I could really really use your help. I'm a marine biologist, I am way out of my field of expertise..." After a minute Ammon answered "Ok little one. It might take a few days but I think I can arrange something. I just need to finish something here first." Niella had no idea what he meant but was so relieved to hear him say he'd come it didn't even register until later. She started to thank Ammon when her other line beeped. It was Connor, so she said goodbye to her dad and took the call.
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    "Hi honey, perfect timing I was just going to call you and let you know I was going to be late. We had some amazing breakthroughs today!" "So... you're not coming to dinner then?" Connor questioned, sounding slightly hurt. "Dinner?" "Yes, remember? We're meeting Florita to discuss my contract??" Niella felt terrible. Connor had planned this dinner with his publisher two weeks ago after deciding he really wanted to try to branch out from the bawdy vaudevillian sea themed novels he'd become famous for. It was a tough move for Connor, especially considering he'd be getting out of the last two books he was under contract for, but he'd hoped his success would allow him a little wiggle room. "Oh I'm such a 🌺🌺🌺🌺. I'm so sorry I totally forgot about that, but just scratch what I said, I'm on my way home now." Connor sighed a breath of relief before saying goodbye. Niella slipped her cell back in her pocket and went to leave. Suddenly she was hit with a dizzy spell.. She knew she had skipped lunch but it surprised her that she was so affected by it, as skipping lunch was not completely uncommon with her. She assured herself it was the skipped lunch combined with the excitement of the day, waited for the room to stop spinning and then headed out the door. Whatever discoveries were left to make, they'd have to wait for tomorrow.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    **Authors Note: This was actually first posted as two seperate but small chapters but then revamped to just one. Please excuse the awkwardly placed "tbc" - I've already erased those images from my primary drive and don't feel it's so obtrusive as to have to dig them out to change the placement



    Niella rushed home and dressed for dinner. On the way to the car Connor playfully wolf whistled, saying "boy oh boy I'm a lucky man." Niella giggled. On the way to the bistro from the parking lot, Niella could tell Connor was nervous. "Listen," she said, stopping him right before the door, "there's nothing to be nervous about. Just stand your ground, be strong, and I'm positive Florita will see reason." "Be strong, huh?" Connor joked, striking the classic body builder pose. "You're such a dork" Niella burst out laughing. "Oh great confidence booster, babe!" Connor joked as he held the door open for her.
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    Meanwhile Karlie had finally signed off on the plans for "The New Sands" with the architech, and made some drinks for her and Rajan to celebrate with while taking a soak. "I cannot tell you how much I love the new pool design" Karlie beamed. "The old one was so boring, made no sense, it had no style!" "And with the insurance claim finally coming in, it won't cost a dime to redesign, either. I'm so proud of you babe, you've got to be excited" Raj added.
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    After dinner, Niella and Connor stepped out of the bistro. His wife looked more beautiful than ever, seeming to almost radiate. "You're too pretty to take right home. Why don't you call Karlie and Raj and we can all go grab a night cap some where?" He spun her around, dipped her and kissed her softly. "Ahem" Florita interrupted, having just stepped out of the bistro. Before letting her up, Conner nuzzled Niella's nose. She stepped away and started dialing. "Thank you for everything, Florita" Connor said, shaking Florita's hand. "I don't know what you're thanking me for, Connor, I didn't let you out of a contract I simply snagged you up for another" Florita said, giving him a wink. "I'll get the new one to you in the morning." And just as Florita made her leave, Karlie answered the phone.
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    "Oh, gosh, well both Raj and I have had a few drinks so we probably shouldn't be driving anywhere. But hey you know, Mom's slinging drinks over at the Paradise, tonight's her first night if you want to stop by and say hi. I'm sure she'd love to hassle you two about making babies" Karlie said giggling. After she got off the phone she went back downstairs to refresh her drink. While she was gone, perhaps emboldened by the spirits, realizing that the sun had gone down Raj quickly slipped off his swim trunks and slipped into the hot tub. When Karlie returned, noticing his wet suit on the deck, she giggled, slipped her own suit off and sat down beside him. Living with your best friends was wonderful, especially because they'd all managed to keep the individuality of their own lives, but it was certainly nice to have a free and uninhibited moment alone with Raj for the first time since their honeymoon.
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    Shari was hard at work when Connor and Niella arrived, but that didn't stop her from immediately making Connor and Niella two of her famous Lady Marmalade. Just as Niella picked her's up from the bar, Carolina and Guillermo walked up from behind "Hey Gorgeous!" Carolina said. "Hey guys! Fancy meeting you two here! You guys behaving or being rabble rousers?" Neilla joked. Of course Connor couldn't help but suggest a game of pool despite Niella's dress.
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    Halfway through the game Guillermo, (who was well on his way to becoming Isla Paradiso's first astronaut,) still keeping his eye on the game nonchalantly brought up the meteor strike. "So hey, what's the scoop on the brimstone from above? Word around the base is that there were some strange readings that night..." Niella stopped dead in her tracks like a dear in the headlights. Her mind was racing, her heart was rocketing. She had no idea how to answer, loving the Ichtacas to death, and having spent her life dedicated to telling the truth... "Your shot, Ny" Connor called. "Oh!" she exclaimed, thankful for the save, and leaned over the pool table to take her shot.
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    Back at the houseboat, Raj and Karlie were feeling the effects of the bubbles, the drinks, the night and their first night alone in awhile. "You know, Niella and Connor aren't the only ones who can make babies" Raj flirted, his eyebrows waggling like a cheesy 80s movie. Karlie giggled. They hadn't actually talked about having kids, but she knew Raj was only looking to get lucky anyway. Feeling frisky she replied "Oh yeah? Well, I know I'm the only one who can hold my breath for a full 3 minutes" and with a gleam in her eye she dove under the water.
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    During the next few days at the lab, everyone was hard at work. In the Earth Sciences lab, Lopita split her time up between monitering the insects and painfully, carefully examining every piece of rubble to look for other strange fragments, taking samples and Masao spent nearly every minute running every kind of analysis he and Lopita could think of, and then running them again to be sure.
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    When Niella stopped in for an update, they had a lot more information but no answers, only more questions. "What we've found," Lopita explained, "we don't understand." She lead Niella over to the work bench. "We've found two more fragments, but their readings are as cryptic as the first. They show no signs of entering the atmosphere, and neither do the meteorites they were embedded in. Stranger still is their carbon dating." "Carbon dating??" "Yes," Masao stepped in, "I decided to carbon date both the meteorites that showed signs of atmospheric burn and the ones that did not. Most meteorites date back to the formation of our solar system, about 4.5 billion years ago. However the ones most closely related to the fragments have no carbon dating at all." "Wait, what??" Niella questioned. "Well, more specifically they carbon dated to merely days old. I really have no idea how this is even possible but I've run and re-run and re-run the analyses and they're accurate. I'm currently following a hunch and in the middle of a few less orthodox anaylises. I might be able to have some answers for you in a few days."
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    Javiera and Emily had spent the week working with the new blue sprite, and had tremendous progress to report when Niella stopped by. "These are, as I suspected, two distinct and separate AIs, speaking the same language but operating as though they each only have a portion of the language. In fact, their language seems to interconnect with each other, working as conjunctions rather than separate identities with the same knowledge base of their language." Emily continued "and they're completely different from each other, too. While Damien clearly prefers to communicate with me and seems almost child like - energetic and enthusiastic, Christoph " "Christoph?" Niella interjected, chiding lightly. Emily shrugged and continued "Christoph is quiet, almost pensive, reserved... Almost shy.. But he really opens up to Professor Batista." Javiera continued "And most astonishingly, we think we've figured out what they're trying to tell us." "Ok you should have started with that!" Niella's eyes were as big as saucers. Javiera continued "Well, let me explain. Their language is still missing parts, but their socialization language seems to be far more complicated than their structuralization language. We're still in the dark largely but what we can make out is that it's some sort of directions, or instructions rather. They both seem to be trying to give us some sort of instructions. It's incredibly complicated as they only incredibly rarely even use the same phonetic groupings," "words" Emily added. "Words," Javiera continued. "But we think it's some sort of blueprints, ... or schematics? We were hoping Alex might have a minute to take a look." "Alex," Niella said "has nothing more important on her plate, trust me. Send it over to her. I'll stop by her office and fill her in."
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    Alex was immediately intrigued by the research Javiera had forwarded. She vaguely recognized electrical schematic components and something else, she just couldn't quite figure out what. She stared at the information and then suddenly she was hit with a flashlight in a dark cave. She leaned in closely to her monitor, trying to discern what she could. She peered at it, positive she had a glimpse of what was on the screen before her when all of a sudden, without looking up, "Heya boss, c'mon in" she said, breaking the silence as Niella's hand was milometers from knocking on the door frame of Alex's open door.
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    "Hey Alex, am I safe to assume you've seen Javeria's files?" "Safe as the nuclear bunker under the Alamo" Alex replied. "What??" Niella replied, confused. "Never mind that, you'd have to kill me if I knew anyway. But come look, see if you can see what I see." Niella stepped behind Alex's desk to see her monitor. "I really have no idea what I'm looking at, Alex." "How about now?" Alex clicked a few keys and half the text disappeared, the remainder then reformatted itself sequentially. It was unmistakable. "Electronic schematics??" Niella gasped. "Not only that," Alex replied, "but what was taken out?..." Silence hung in the air like a mosquito with a half full belly, cloyingly present. "...I'm pretty sure that's a programming language."
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    To be continued :)
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    Connor started his day bright and early, eager to get started on something more meaningful than clever puns and indecorous humor. He could feel something just on the horizon, something big. Perhaps this could be his one true masterpiece. He took in the sunrise from his giant office windows with growing excitement.

    Niella, on the other hand, was enjoying a much needed day off. The few plants she had managed to find time to maintain were woefully in need of some tender loving care so that was first on the to-do list. Afterward she took a minute to relax on the deck, remembering what it meant to actually be outside during the day for a change.
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    Karlie and Niella were happy to both be home during lunch to have a nice girl's chat, it had been so long. Karlie asked how Connor's meeting had gone. Niella explained "instead of canceling the contract, Connor is still be responsible for his last two books but Florita is going to arrange a long term extension to the contract on the contingency that his next three books, under whatever genre, will be theirs to publish and that the extension would only be continued if they saw a decent enough profit for whatever genre he chose. It doesn't have to match his sales now, but they still have to be profitable enough to continue putting off his normal blockbusters. So in essence Connor now has 2 contracts. It actually worked out better for us because we now know we have a publisher for his next five books guaranteed instead of having to worry about getting anything new published after the fact. Connor's pretty relieved, really. Especially the whole "let's start a family" thing. Speaking of, your mom was trying to serve us her best aphrodisiac last night according to her. She called it .." "Lady Marmalade," Karlie finished Niella's sentence, chuckling. "She swears by it. She says it's why I'm here." "Oh my! Scandalous!" Niella joked. "So what about you and Raj? Back from the honeymoon, Raj's career is perfect, the Sands is well on it's way... How long until you're drinking a Lady Marmalade?? Huh??" Niella ribbed. "God you're as bad as mom!" Karlie retorted and then, hoping to change the subject, added "So tell me all about the aliens dear bestie..." It worked.
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    Before lunch was over the girls decided to take "Mama Shari" out to dinner at the cute little cafe on the island, Rebecca's, after Raj was home from practice. After they were seated Karlie asked if they still had fried chicken because she didn't see it on the specials board. "Unfortunately ma'am we do not" the new cook replied. Mama Shari peered at Karlie sideways. "Fried chicken?? The only time I ever wanted fried chicken was when I was pregnant with you..." Before Karlie could protest, Connor stepped in to save the day, bringing up his excitement over his new deal. Shari might have been Karlie's mom, but with Raj and Connor having both lost their mothers, and Niella actually losing her mother, Shari had uniformly become a mom to them all and Connor was pretty keen to share his news anyway. Karlie eventually managed to sneak her protest in, however, looking at her mom when their food came, saying "They just use to have really good fried chicken here!" only partially under her breath. Shari looked down and said "yes of course babygirl" and smiled from ear to ear. Niella looked away and snickered. She loved the way Karlie and Shari got along, both of them sarcastic and loving and just completely comfortable in each other's company. It made her miss her dad, and the mom she never got to know, but usually it just tickled her to see them playfully bicker. After a few minutes, Shari asked if either Raj or Connor were handy at all. "I think whoever installed the new dishwasher did something wrong, it's leaking and the faucet's getting half the pressure of every other sink in the house." Both Connor and Raj said they'd stop by the next night to take a look and Shari insisted on making dinner as a thank you. "You can all come!"
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    After dinner Raj couldn't resist challenging Connor to a shoot out while the girls played a round of horseshoes. Connor was probably one of the only people capable of eking out a win over Raj now and again, somehow just being a natural at everything from snow boarding to darts. It's one of the reasons they got along so well, because Raj loved the challenge and Connor didn't care if he lost or won. The girls played a game of horse shoes but Niella quickly found herself exhausted. She chalked it up to her first day off in a long, long while. She knew, with the long holiday weekend approaching that she'd have plenty of time to visit. Her dad had finally arranged to come from Egypt for a few short days and he'd be in the day before Leisure day. She knew there'd only be a short time to help her at the lab but she was sure he'd be intrigued enough that he'd arrange a longer stay soon, and even be able to help remotely from Egypt. Just like her, he was driven by a need to know the unknown. After a round of hugs from Mama Shari the gang headed home and shortly after hitting home, Niella was practically comatose.
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    Just before dawn Niella became aware of an acrid, sour taste in the back of her mouth, behind her tongue. Rousing her from a particularly crazy and incredibly vivid dream about aliens and fortune tellers, she became quickly aware that she was about to be sick. Jumping from bed, the queasiness was overwhelming and she nearly lost everything there on the bedroom carpet. Luckily she made it to the bathroom before she was overcome with a second, unstoppable wave. As the door closed behind her she immediately dropped to her knees and grabbed the rim of the toilet just in time. After she was composed she stood up, and her eyes grew large with sudden realization and excitement. She quickly rinsed her mouth and then slid the vanity drawer with her female necessities open. Her hands shook as she read the directions on the box no less than three times, once the French version just to be sure. After following the directions the timer on the test strip was started and she set it on top of the box on the counter.
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    Niella washed her hands and decided it would be a good time to brush her teeth, considering... As the sun rose and she brushed her teeth she couldn't help but wonder about her own mother. Would they have been close like Karlie and Shari? Would her mom have been her best friend? Would she know all of the things about having babies that a father just couldn't know?? What did she even look like?? Lost in these thoughts she almost forgot totally about what she was doing. And then the timer went off. It took a minute for Niella to build up the courage to even put her toothbrush down. It was just a lack of sleep, right? A rough schedule and she knew she was being entirely too hopeful. Couples try for years sometimes and Connor and her had barely just started to try. And it would all be ok, and normal, and totally fine if there was a minus instead of a plus, right? Right?? She just had to look... Right?




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    Niella stepped into the bedroom to find Connor up and making the bed. "Connor, come here" she somehow managed to get out meekly but by the time he looked over to her she was welling up. Connor was instantly concerned she had heard from her dad and he wouldn't be able to make it after all, or worse. He hurried around the far side of the bed "What's wrong Ny?? Is everything ok???" "No, honey. It's not. Everything is beautiful. I have morning sickness." Niella tried to quell the excitement and only barely managed to do so. "Ooohhh, ok. Whew!" Connor's head nodded back in relief. Then realizing what that meant he choked out "Wait, wait what??" Niella nodded, her entire face beaming. Connor wrapped her up in his arms with a warmth and a tenderness that she had never felt and she knew that even though she didn't have her mother, she had Connor and that she had nothing to be afraid of. He pulled back from her slightly and said "Well this is it, Ny. The first day of the biggest adventure of our lives. The timing might seem hard, maybe a little sooner than we expected considering all of the changes we're going through, but it really doesn't matter. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you. For you two." "I know. I've always known, Connor." Because she had.
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    Karlie's day started at City Hall to get the last of the permits signed and construction underway. She then headed to Aléjate Shores. Though most of her time had been recently dedicated to getting the New Sands up and running, she still had one 5 star resort to manage, and a recent review complaining of staff lazing around the pool had her concerned that her absence had sent the wrong message. She looked over everyone's hours to make sure no one's schedule was off and then talked to her staff. Luckily everyone knew exactly the person who had left the review and exactly the staff member she was talking about. The young clerk that worked in the resort's coffee shop did use the pool on a particularly hot day, after his shift had ended and this guest seemed to think that the coffee shop should remain open 24hrs a day. It wasn't the first time someone had suggested that, but it was certainly the first time someone was actually angry because it wasn't, but Karlie knew that there were just some people that felt that if the world didn't specifically revolve around them, then they would just make the world miserable until it did. She trusted her staff, having hired each one herself and building a really solid work environment by paying her employees wages and benefits that not only fairly provided for their needs, but she freely offered all of the resorts amenities to them on their off time. She found that treating employees like you valued their work resulted in valuable employees who's work is hard to replace. Her mom taught her that running the bistro in Sunlit Tides having worked her way up from bartender. Karlie had been craving some of her mother's "comfort food" cooking for weeks so as soon as Raj was done for the day everyone made their way over to Mama Shari's house. Piggygirl was SO excited to see everyone she dropped the stick she was fetching for Shari and covered Niella in kisses.
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    Before setting to the tasks at hand, Rajan gave his mother-in-law a new invisible fence as a housewarming gift. He knew Shari felt bad leaving Piggygirl locked inside while she was at her new job bartending at the Paradise Pub and now Piggy could have the best of both of her inside and outside worlds. Niella took the opportunity to pull Karlie aside and tell her best friend her news. "Hey now! Welcome to the family little human, high five!" Karlie joked and pretended to high five Niella's stomach. Mama Shari couldn't help but overhear and gasped in excitement.
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    Mama Shari turned and squeezed Niella. She giggled and said "See? Told you they'd work!" "Oh mother! That was what, like two nights ago??" Karlie feigned frustration. "Well you're just going to have to supervise while Karlie and I put up my new curtains, they just came today!" Afterward Shari exclaimed "Wow they look even better than I thought they would!" The guys weren't quite finished so Karlie suggested a game of Dominoes. Niella's Dad had taught her how to play when they visited him in Egypt and she was eager to get her mom into the game. After they sat down Karlie began explaining the rules when Shari, concentrating on the tiles in front of her, said "I know how to play, babygirl. I learned a long long time ago, before you were born" Karlie shrugged with exaggerated exasperation at Niella "Ya think ya know someone?!" Niella snickered.zmLs5GT.jpg


    Shari made incredible shwarma wraps for everyone with the spices Niella had gotten her when they visited Egypt. During dinner Raj and Karlie took turns filling everyone in on the changes to the resort that Karlie's new plans were making. By the end Connor and Raj both had seconds and Connor was convinced it was better than the shwarma he had in Egypt. Everyone said their goodbyes and Mama Shari couldn't resist rubbing Niella's baby bump, telling it to "rest and get big and smart and strong and brave" and that "Mimi Shari will love them to the moon and back and all of the days in time." Niella couldn't help but be brought right back to her very first thoughts that morning.
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    Back at the house boat, Karlie unpinned her twist bun into a ponytail, slipped on her pajamas and sat back against the headrest of her bed. She couldn't help but really wonder for the first time ever at what kind of a mother she might make some day. Life had gone crazy the day after they had gotten back from their honeymoon but even before that she hadn't given it much thought, excited about opening the Sands before it was hit by the meteor strikes. The thought was surprisingly appealing to her. Growing up with a single mother really sort of geared her towards a career path and she had never even really expected to meet Raj or to fall in love with the big lug. She had no idea that Raj was pretty much thinking the same exact thing. Karlie opened her mouth to express her thoughts to Raj but what came out was "Hey so that was really quick, huh? I haven't even talked to them about where we're going to live. I mean are we still welcome here? Is it weird to stay? It just feels like a family, I don't know if I want to leave. I mean I would, we would I mean, of course, but I like living with them." Raj, with his incredibly easygoing nature simply said "Whatever's in the stars, K-Bear, we will be good. Remember what I said on the day of the strike? I'm here, you're here, that's what's most important and all that about to happen is destined to happen. And we're destined to go through it together. The universe told us that the day of the meteor strike."
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    And somehow she knew he was right.




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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    It was only seconds after Niella called out "I've got fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast!" that everyone was sitting at the table happily gobbling them down. It was Wednesday, Raj's mid-week game day so usually everyone just hung out before hand and all went together. Today, however, Karlie and Raj had an errand to run. "We're both scheduled for our yearly physical at 10 at the medical center. After that there probably won't be much time other than to get to warmup." Raj said. "Then I'm going to drop Raj off at the stadium and run back to get mom," Karlie continued "so you two have the morning to yourselves." "Hey let's work on our baby announcements!" Niella suggested enthusiastically.
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    Raj and Karlie arrived at the medical center. They were given the customary sterile cups with their names on them for basic tests such as kidney function, glucose levels, drug tests (required for all sportsball players,) etc. and shown to the bathroom. When they were finished they were shown to their examination rooms and given a gown. Dr. Persephone Han was Karlie's doctor. After asking Karlie a few standard questions, Dr. Han ran Karlie through the routine physical exam, testing things like flexibility, balance and reflexes.c2D4ywU.jpg


    After they were finished Dr. Han had told Karlie to have a seat on the examination table while she went to get the lab results and then if everything was good Karlie could be on her way. When the doctor returned, she began writing on a prescription tablet. Without looking up she said "I'm going to write you a script for some prenatal vitamins. Your iron's a little low but nothing to be worried about." "Wait, my iron's low? I'm sure it's just because I've been skipping the greens lately. Can't I just take over the counter iron vitamins? I'm not pregnant, so?" Karlie asked, confused. "Well you are according to your lab results. And you're perfectly welcome to take over the counter vitamins, but prenatal are specifically designed for the healthiest mommy and baby." Dr. Han replied, not looking up. Karlie sat in stunned silence. How had this happen?? Had she missed a pill?? She had always thought she'd have a child someday, but she imagined actually being prepared! Wasn't that how this family planning stuff was suppose to work?? How was Raj going to take it? They hadn't even talked about having children yet! Her mind raced a million miles an hour but slowly the stunned silence turned into a soft, blissful happiness.
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    She knew exactly how Raj would react. She knew because she had always known. There won't be a child more loved in the entire world, and Raj would go beyond the world to do anything for that child. And so would she. Planning schmanning, this was the stars talking to them, just as Raj had said. As she slid off the examination table and took the slip from Dr. Han, a plan started forming in her mind of how she wanted to tell Raj the news. Karlie rubbed her hand over her stomach lightly and thought "Welcome to the family little one" and she lightly giggled, remembering the high five of Niella's tummy. She hurried as fast as she could getting dressed, luckily making it out of her appointment before Raj had made it out of his. She stepped outside and dialed her phone. "Hey Ny? Could you do me a favor and pick up mom on your way to the game? I have something I have to take care of." "Oh of course! I can tell your mom about the baby announcements on the way over, she'll be thrilled!" Niella mused. "Perfect" Karlie said, amused that she'd be having the same conversation soon.
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    By the time Raj's appointment was over, he was running slightly behind. When they pulled up to the stadium, Raj leaned over the center console and gave Karlie a quick kiss and hopped out, expecting her to hop into the driver's seat. When he heard, instead, the car alarm beep he looked back over his shoulder. "Aren't you going to go get your mom??" Raj asked. "Ny and Connor are going to bring her" Karlie called back to him just as he dashed in the door. It wasn't long before Niella, Connor and Shari got to the stadium. When they got to the the team's box seats, they found Karlie enjoying a veggie burger, watching the game out the picture window.
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    Being a mid-game week they had the place to themselves so were completely free to get as "supportive" as they wanted. Everyone watched the game on the giant screen TV while they enjoyed the spread put out by the team owners, munching on the usual stadium fair like hot wings, nachos, popcorn and hot dogs and then a host of higher end food like butter and garlic broasted turkey and watermelon and scallion salad. By the last break of the game, the Green Llama's were in the lead by nearly 40 points, completely securing the win.
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    As the teams retreated to their coaches, everyone stood up to stretch, and Karlie slipped out the front door down the stands unnoticed. Shari, Connor and Niella were discussing the game when Niella's attention was snapped to the sports caster on the TV. Connor and Shari immediately followed her gaze. "Hey hey hey! What do we have here on the jumbotron? Looks like a special message to Raj Patel!" the sportscaster announced. Let's have a closer look!"
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    Soon the feed was switched from the jumbotron to a live shot of the empty sportsball field. Empty except for Karlie standing right in the middle. Seconds later Raj appeared on the field, running towards Karlie full speed. The crowd's roar was deafening. The camera followed him as he stopped right before he got to her asked her something unheard over the thundering cheers, and then dipped her into a long kiss. The crowed only got louder as Raj scooped Karlie off her feet, and carried her right off the field.
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    "That just might be the last we see of Rajan Patel tonight!" the sportscaster announced. It was.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    Niella's dad's plane landed a bit late so he just took a cab to the houseboat. He set his suitcase on deck and then wrapped his arms around his daughter. "Little one you look like you're glowing! Am I to believe you're finally getting the rest you need?" "Even more amazing, Dad..." Niella looked down and ran her hand over her barely noticeable belly, "I'm going to be a mother."
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    Ammon threw his arms around his daughter again and hugged her extra gently as Connor came out to greet Ammon. "Welcome, Mr. Anippe," Connor grabbed Ammon's hand to shake it. "A Hand shake??" Ammon protested and pulled Connor in for a hug. "Congratulations, Son, I couldn't be happier for either of you!" Ammon said as he gave Connor's back a pat.
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    They stepped into the entry way of the boathouse, where Rajan and Karlie were waiting to say hello. "How's it going, Mr. Anippe?" Raj said, giving Ammon's hand a shake. "It goes quite well Rajan, How are you doing?" Before Rajan could answer Karlie stepped in "Well, about the same as your daughter actually. Rajan and I are going to be parents too!" she exclaimed. "Oh! My! That's wonderful, my dear!" Ammon said as he hugged Karlie.
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    They stepped into the living room and all had a seat to chat and catch up. After a few minutes of assuring Ammon that they were both feeling great and Ammon hearing the exciting details of Karlie's reveal, Ammon said "You have a beautiful home. This is much nicer than the houseboat I raised Niella on." "We didn't need much, Dad, we were happy. But it's been a great place for Connor's writing. His office is just upstairs. He looks out onto that beautiful sunrise and is inspired every time." "Oh you're going to love the sun rises from this port!" Karlie chimed in. "It's too bad you're in town for such a short period of time, Mr. Anippe, I know Raj and I would love to be able to do some fishing with you," Connor admitted.
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    "Actually," Ammon said, "things have changed slightly and I am not needed back as soon as I had thought. I was planning on speaking to Niella about arranging a longer stay, I can stay at a hotel or find a short term apartment if need be." "Nonsense!" Connor said "there's plenty of room here." They had all planned on trying to talk Ammon into a longer visit so when Karlie looked at the gang with a glint in her eye they knew to play along. "Besides," she said non-nonchalantly "It'd be great if you could come to see Raj play a game." "I'd LOVE to see Rajan play sportsball! When's your next game, son?" Connor spoke instead "Well," he said coyly, "Raj's on family leave, so right about the time you'd be meeting your grandchild. And honestly, I'm afraid if you don't stay, Ny wouldn't take the maternity leave she's promised to. Whatever's going on at the science center is too important to her." Ammon was truly touched that these four young adults, just starting a family and so many other adventures, would want him to be a part of the start of it all.
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    After dinner Ammon and Niella sat on the back deck while the others distracted themselves so that Ammon and Niella could talk shop. "I haven't even told my staff about my pregnancy leave yet" Niella admitted. "I just couldn't until I knew whether or not you'd be able to stay. But I have to admit not even the big lab coats will hide it much longer." "Let me meet them all first," Ammon said. "So they can have an opportunity to feel more grounded before you tell them, and if there are any objections we can all work with them directly." "Yeah that's what I was thinking, too, Daaaaaaad" Niella said, stretching and yawning. "Alright," Ammon said, standing up, "If I'm going to be here, you're going to get every bit of sleep you need. Off to bed." and hugged Niella a long soft hug. Sometimes he forgot how much he missed his daughter. He had been so obsessed with trying to find her mother since Niella had graduated high school that he felt like he had missed entire chunks of the every day things that truly shape who we are in his daughter's life. Maybe this was fate telling him that the past had to be left in the past. That what had happened between he and Niella's mother could never be changed, that too much time had passed, too much pain had passed. His heart broke a second time as he let his last resolve to find her mother slip in importance in his life, but he knew Niella's mother would have wanted him to be there for their daughter. "I will find you my dearest dearest love, I will. Someday. I swear." he thought to himself.
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    "Here it is, sir, your home away from, well, your new digs!" Raj said as he showed Ammon the guest room below deck. "Feel free to make yourself at home." As he unpacked he could sense home. It must be because he's back in Isla Paradiso, where he raised Niella. Maybe it was because he was on a houseboat again, feeling the ocean from under his feet rather than the arid sands of Egypt. Maybe it was because he was starting to understand that in order to move forward with his life he had to be willing to let go of the past. To let go of Adrastria, of the hope of finding her, and concentrate on being the father, the grandfather his love, his mon cher, would want him to be.

    The next morning Niella and Ammon set out early for the science center. By the time he stepped through the front door he had already made his mind up to give up the search for Adrastria, at least for now. He would find a place of his own here in Isla Paradiso. His daughter needed him, and that was simply that.
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    As they stepped off the elevator, Niella motioned in front of them. "That's the rock cutter there in the padded room. The Aquatics lab is there at the end of the hall, but we're going in here, the earth sciences lab." The automatic door slid open and they walked to the back end of the lab where Lopita and Masao were working. "This is my father, Dr. Ammon Anippe," Niella introduced him to Lopita. "Dr. Anippe, it's an honor to meet you! I just finished your journal that was published on gentle excavation through robotic traversers" Lopita exclaimed excitedly. "And this is Masao Hamata, our head of Marine Biology as well as our resident computer expert. He's been dividing his time between helping Lopita in the lab and assisting the head of our technology department with our recent discoveries. "Dr. Anippe! It is a great honor. I attended your lecture at the International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, it was quite impressive." Masao stepped forward and shook Ammon's hand. "Oh did you? I'm glad you found it useful! Nice to meet you." Ammon replied.
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    Masao and Lopita then took a few minutes to show them what they were currently working on, analyzing the different magnetic properties of the debris and then roughly around the Earth Sciences lab in general. When they were done Niella clapped her hands and then rubbed them together. "Ok, we need to be off, I'm a bit behind schedule." Ammon said goodbye and then off they went. The next stop was the Mental and Physical Sciences lab to meet Javiera and Emily. As they walked through the facility to reach the lab, Ammon looked around quite impressed, and silently incredibly proud of what his daughter had built here. Before he moved back to Egypt he had worked at the facility which was ahead of it's time then, but the incredible changes his daughter had made in just the few short years since graduating college and starting her job at the facility as a fertilizer annalist was nothing short of astounding. As they passed the Aquatic's lab without stopping Ammon started to inquire, but decided to give his daughter the full reigns of the day and just trust that she had a reason to skip it.
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    When they stepped through the door of the Mental and Physical Sciences lab, Javiera and Emily were in the middle of comparing communication differences between the blue projection, Christoph, and the green one, Damien. As the door slid closed behind them, Niella said "Ladies, I'd like you to meet my father, Dr. Ammon Anippe." After the formalities were over, Niella asked the women to show her father the disc's "most recent projection." Javiera placed her finger on the top of the disc and said "Christoph?" as if she was waking a sleeping child. y7T1LxY.jpg


    After an extremely rudimentary description Ammon, amazed, asked if he could see the disc. As he did Christoph immediately became visibly excited as he began the familiar chitter, beeps and clicks that the women had become acquainted with. Ammon instantly recognized that the projection seemed to be aware of it's surroundings as it focused it's gaze at Ammon but would occasionally look at the others in the room, as though it was talking about them. "Place your finger on top of the disc and say "Goodbye." Javiera directed. Ammon did so and Christoph disappeared. "Incredible" Ammon said in astonishment, mostly to himself. "So is there any visible pattern in behavior? As in a set of scripted reactions? Or is this genuine A.I. that we're talking about? Or something else all together?" Ammon questioned. "There are definitely patterns to the speech the same way there are patterns to the way we speak, but if you're asking about AI, that'd be Alex's department." Emily answered. Niella said "That's where we're off to next." They made their goodbye and then headed to the tech lab. Akone was sitting at his desk working on something when Niella and Ammon stepped through the door and hurriedly clicked his monitor off.
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    Akone pushed in his desk chair and walked to Niella and Ammon. "I'd like you to meet Akone Kahale, master in all things red tape. Mr. Akone, this is my father, Dr. Ammon Anippe." "Pleased to meet you. You're here to see Alex I take it?" Akone was use to most interactions with him being in digital or printed format rather than face to face. "And you, if you're not in the middle of something" Niella said reassuringly. Akone had to be coaxed out of his grumpy hermit shell occasionally. Akone's demeanor relaxed and he started to lead them back to Alex's office as he spoke. "Actually we both were about to go over some expenditures but I am sure we have a minute for an introduction." Niella honestly didn't know what the facility would do without Akone to keep Alex on schedule and sometimes on track, much like a Watson to a Sherlock. Her genius and ingenuity the momentum of her attention and drive, Alex could get lost in a project for days, even weeks on end stopping only when her stomach growled loud enough or her alarm went off to remind her to go home to her family every night. As they walked, Ammon was amazed at the technology they were passing, barely even hearing the conversation, trying to determine each device's function. When they reached Alex's office door Akone knocked a couple of times and said "Hey Doc, you, uh, dressed?" Akone spoke closely to the door, embarrassed by the question. He had once entered her office to find her completely nude testing the sensory enhanced VR system she was developing to see what it "felt" like. "Huh? What?! Come in here, I can't hear you when you mumble" Alex said on the other side. Akone sighed in relief and opened the door.
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    "Dr. Jamie Alexander!" Ammon spoke out in surprise as he stepped forward. "K'Nippy! I heard you were coming for a visit!" Alex exclaimed as she came around her desk to shake Ammon's hand. "I take it you two know each other?" Niella said as she and Akone filed into the small office. "K'Nippy and I go way back, we've worked together a few times in the past." "K'nippy?" Niella raised an eyebrow in an exaggerated quizzical fashion at her dad. "It was 1994 when we first met, she seeing someone in Grease on Broadway and thought my name sounded like Kenickie..." Ammon offered with an uncharacteristic blush and shrug. Alex invited Ammon back to her office in an hour for a meeting with her and Masao regarding what they suspected was a programming language. She knew it was exactly in Ammon's wheelhouse, which is why she scheduled the meeting for the day he arrived. In the meantime, Niella showed Ammon to his office. "It's on the small side but it's the best we could do on the spot. We can arrange for something larger in the future if you need. It's a decent location though, right in the middle of the labs, by the restrooms..." They stepped in, the door shut. Niella asked "Well, what do you think?" Ammon knew she wasn't talking about the office. "I'm honestly astounded, a bit overwhelmed by it all." "I know! Isn't it exciting!" Niella let her inner excited little girl peek out of her professionalism to her dad. "It is incredible, little one, but I was also talking about how proud I am of you. You've got an amazing team which means you're an amazing leader. Your colleagues have a wide range of skills and all genuinely respect you." "Stop before you make a pregnant woman cry in front of those colleagues, dad" Niella smiled softly. "So! Where should I start?" Ammon clapped and then rubbed his hands together. "You start with Alex, K'Nippy." Niella chuckled and then continued "I've got to meet with Javiera to tell her about my maternity leave and explain why I left her in the dark until now about it.
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    When Javiera sat down in Niella's office across from her, Niella wasn't at all confident on how it would go. Javeria was her second mostly only in formality and Javiera had been kept abreast of nearly every situation and decision that Niella made, as an equal. Until this one... Niella wasn't sure Javiera would understand her decision to offer her father a full access position at the facility without first discussing it with Javiera or be happy about Niella's maternity leave at such a short notice. And indeed Javiera was slightly stung by it, so Niella did her best to put Javiera at ease, assuring Javiera that though her father would be acting as a lead consultant in the new work regarding the meteorite and the tech involved, that Javiera was still very much her right hand and obviously would be in charge of the entire facility, projects old and new. Niella tried to highlight the asset her father was, both as a scientist and a skilled lesion between her and the departments working on the meteorite projects.
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    When Ammon stepped into Alex's office Masao was already there. Alex invited them both to look at her monitor as soon as he arrived. Masao let him pass and then got up behind him. Both Alex and Masao took turns explaining what they had deciphered, what they hadn't, and their theories about what they thought might be a programming language that had been intermixed with electrical schematics. When they finished explaining Ammon asked if he could take a look at the suspected programming language separate from the text regarding electrical schematics. Alex clicked a key and her desktop opened to a page with a block of text and symbols. "This is only a section, but it's definitely something other than electrical schematics and very strongly resembles programming language, though what we don't know. Ammon pushed his glasses up and leaned in to examine it. When he did his eyes grew wide with shock. Could it be? There's no way it could be, it's completely impossible. He stood up abruptly and said "Do you think I could get you to send these files to my computer for me to look? I have such bad eyesight anymore..." Ammon chuckled uncomfortably. Alex, still lost in her own examination said nothing until Masao broke her free "Alex, send this to both me and Dr. Anippe, please?" "Who??!" Alex mumbled through her hand as she rubbed her chin. "Me and Dr. Anippe" Masao restated. "K'Nippe? yeah sure ok." Alex affirmed before being pulled back into thought. Ammon excused himself to take a closer look. As he was leaving Alex said "Don't mind him, he's kind of strange." "Dr. Anippe??" Masao asked. "Who?? Oh, no, you. I was talking to him."
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    In her office, Niella had succeeded in quelling Javiera's concerns and preparing her to run the facility. "You've actually been here longer than I have, Javiera. You've got to know how much I value you. Not only as a scientist, not only as someone I can trust to run this place, but as a dear dear friend and colleague." "I hope you understand my trepidation, Niella. It's not a slight against you, I just really care about this place." Javiera explained. "Of course I do, Javi. This place is as much your baby as it is mine." Niella reassured her. "And speaking of, I want you to know how excited and thrilled I am for you and Connor. I hope you weren't offended. You two are going to be amazing parents. I also want you to know you have nothing to worry about while you're gone." Javiera said and then hugged Niella warmly. "Just... Just take good care of those here and they'll all take care of you, of this - of our baby," Niella said, gesturing to the building around them "because something tells me things just might start to get pretty crazy here."
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    Ammon sat down to his desk and entered in his password and then pulled up the files already there from Alex. He opened the first file and scanned it. It was unmistakable. He opened the next and found the same thing. Assuming the rest would only reveal more of the same he went back to the first file. His code. The A.I. he had developed for the excavation robots he had utilized in Egypt. No, wait. Not his code but definitely framed off of it, but far more advanced - chunks that were completely unrecognizable in fact, but absolutely pieces that Ammon knew to be his code. He had kept that code strictly to himself, worrying that it would be used for things such as infiltration and surveillance micro bots which, in the wrong hands, could be devastating. How did his A.I. programming get into someone else's hands? Into someone else's technology that was embedded in a meteorite that just happened to hit property co-owned by his daughter?? Ammon decided he first needed to decipher the AI programming that he recognized and see if he could use it to decipher the rest, then and only then would he tell Niella or the team about it. He couldn't risk the people he had hidden Niella from all those years ago finding a way to hurt her after all of this time. Though he been lead to believe they were no longer a threat by various government agencies, obviously someone was trying very hard to send him or Niella a message and he was going to find out exactly what that message was.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    Karlie's day started bright and early. She tip toed into the hallway and quietly closed the door so she wouldn't wake Raj. She called her mom, who was always up at the crack of dawn no matter how late she was up. "Good morning, babybird! You're up early." Shari cheerfully chirped. "Morning Mamabird" Karlie replied "Yes I am. I think this little one has Mamabird's sleeping hours. Happy Leisure day!" "Leisurely for some, some of us poor schlubs have to work, especially when you're low man on the totem pole." Shari joked wryly. "That's why I'm calling mom. What time do you think you'll be off? I can wait to start dinner until then, I'm sure Mr. Anippe will understand. You're still coming over, right?" "You know," Shari said "this is starting to feel like a set up... This is the second time you've called to ask... 'Oh Mr. Anippe we don't have anymore chairs, you'll have to sit next to my beautiful, intelligent, kind, generous, and all around perfect mother. It's so fortunate that you're single."' Shari mocked in a falsetto voice. "I am not trying to set you up, mother. He's just my best friend's dad, here from a foreign country and he's a pretty nice person. And neither of you know anyone else here. And it's not like you have ever gone on a single solitary date in my entire life anyway so it wouldn't kill you anyway. Oh good lord it does sound like a set up doesn't it? But it's not, I promise. He's not even single, and from everything Niella's said he's madly devoted to his wife. And you're far from perfect." Karlie teased. "Raised the perfect daughter, so I must be doing something right. But you know, it would be nice to have a friend that remembers a time before instant entertainment, back before people sat staring at their phones half the day. Good lord now I sound old." Shari chuckled. "Yes yes I'm still coming, as long as you're still not setting me up." she giggled.
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    Shari had the first shift of the day at the Paradise Pub. It was literally the worst shift. No one starts at the bar on leisure day, if they get there at all. While she worked she kept her mind busy by thinking of all the things she would do differently if she owned her own place. She loved running the Bistro in Sunlit Tides but that was a bit too upscale. Paradise was down to earth enough, but it was very spread out and almost disjointed. Patrons rarely interacted with each other because they were often in completely separate spaces. "And they never have any specials or events at all." Shari thought to herself. At the houseboat Raj tended the garden and grabbed some veggies for Karlie to grill. Living with a genie meant that anyone cooking was rare but Karlie insisted that it wasn't Leisure day without actual grilled food. Karlie was planning on grilling several kinds of sausages and veggies and something about the entire event had everyone in a great mood, even getting Shari through her slowest shift in history.
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    When Shari's shift ended she gave Karlie a quick call to let her know she was going to take a quick shower and say a quick hello to Piggygirl. "How was work?" Karlie asked. "Ugh, long and boring. I made a whopping $3 in tips. At this rate it'll take me forever to open my own place." Shari gruffed, more to herself than to her daughter. "What place?" Karlie quizzed, having never heard her mother talk about having her own place. "Oh nothing, I just spent the day playing "If I owned this place" to keep myself occupied. I'll be over soon Babygirl." She pushed the button on her console and started her truck. After a quick shower and change of clothes, Shari spent a good 10 minutes loving up Piggy, who happily bounded inside when she saw Shari come home. She kissed Piggy on the nose and then drove to the other side of the small island. The sun was already on it's way down, the telltale sign of fall approaching. She could hear music from the back of the houseboat as she approached the end of the doc but thought she'd go through the house just in case Karlie needed help in the kitchen. As she stepped onto the deck of the houseboat she called out "Hello Hello! I'm coming through the front!" and stepped into the doorway as soon as she heard Karlie shout back.
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    After getting off the phone with her mom, Karlie took the sausages to the already warmed up grill. Connor and Raj brought out the collapsible picnic table so that everyone could eat on the deck and then Ammon, who had brought the guitar that Raj had given him as a gift with him for his visit, started to show Rajan how much he had practiced since their visit to Egypt. Karlie cooked the spinach and fete vegen sausages first, and set to work on the Kielbasa from the specialty butcher shop while Niella and Connor enjoyed listening to Rajan and Niella's dad, kindly ignoring (or in Niella's case, giggling) when Ammon occasionally hit the wrong note. Karlie had just finished the kielbasa when they heard Shari call from the front of the houseboat. Karlie shouted "I'll meet you inside" back to her mom and then "I need to get the plates anyway" to everyone else. "Let me get the door for you" Niella turned to help, while Ammon said "I can help with that" setting down his guitar and following the girls in. Connor and Rajan decided to follow suit and filed behind Ammon.
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    The second after the girls stepped inside, Shari's giant smile at seeing both of them waddling in together disappeared completely and she stood almost frozen in the entry way. Karlie had just realized that her mom looked almost terrified when she heard Ammon gasp and practically push past both her and Niella. He was walking very directly towards Shari, she assumed to introduce himself, though why was he in such a pushy rush, Karlie wondered slightly irritated. And then remembering her mother's frightened look Karlie herself felt her sense of alarm increase. As Ammon closed the last couple of feet he began to raise his hand, as though to shake. Instead of his hand stopping at waist level, it kept raising toward her head. Ammon cupped the side of Shari's face. You could cut the silence with a knife as everyone held their breath in shock. Shari's eyes began to well as she placed her hand on top of Ammon's
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    Suddenly Ammon hand slid from her face down Shari's shoulder and behind her back and he pulled her quickly, almost aggressively close to him and passionately kissed her. Caught off guard completely Shari's eyes grew wide and her arms instinctively stiffened against the kiss but soon she completely melted, sliding her arms under Ammon's and wrapping around him, completely lost in that one single kiss.
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    Watching this unfold before her eyes, Karlie almost felt like she had been spinning in place for the last 10 minutes. "Huh? "Whu?" she mumbled. Niella and Connor were frozen in ridiculous expressions of shock and confusion. Shari pulled back from Ammon's kiss, still wrapped in his embrace. She held his face and pulled it close." "Hapi, is it really you?? Am I dreaming? Is this real??" she practically whispered as tears streamed down her cheeks. "Ma chéri" was all Ammon could bring himself to say. "Huh?? Whu??" Karlie mumbled loudly before dropping the sausages and stumbling dizzily as the world spun in front of her eyes.
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    Rajan quickly grabbed his wife's arm to steady her and lead her to the chair in front of them as Shari and Ammon, alerted by the clang of the plate of hotdogs crashing, ran to Karlie's side. After she had been brought a glass of water and her world stopped spinning the others began to take a seat, Raj pulling a dining chair next to his wife's. As soon as everyone was just about seated, Niella looked at her dad and Shari, and said "One of you two had better start explaining that right now." Both Shari and Ammon began flooding the girls with explanations at the same time, completely overlapping and drowning each other out. "STOP IT!" Karlie shouted with her head in her hands. Karlie looked up, her nose crinched and her jaw set. She grimaced at Ammon and Shari scoldingly, raised her hand and said "She said One. Of. You!" She snapped, jabbing her hand in their direction at each of the last three words for emphasis.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    Now presenting AMMON AND SHARI, AN ORIGIN STORY.





    "Little one," Ammon started tentatively, looking at Shari, "this is your mother." "Uhhhh, right." Niella said in disbelief "Wanna try that again, Dad?" "Yeah, Mr. Anippe, if this is some kind of a joke, with all due respect, it's kind of a 🌺🌺🌺🌺 one. Isn't Ny's mother Egyptian??" Connor said, a little miffed. Shari braced herself against Ammon's words and their consequences. "No, she was born in Egypt, but she's not Egyptian. Connor. It's true, Little one. I don't know how it is, how it is true, how she's here, but here she sits."
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    "I... Little one I was not born 'Ammon Anippe.'" Ammon continued tentatively. "... I was born Hapimou Mesbah. I met your mother when my boss at MorcuCorp, Akhenaten Magdy, called me into his home office one morning. But he was more than just my boss. His father, who had been a kind and generous man, was the human who gave my father his freedom. Our family had been enslaved as personal genies for the Magdy family for generations. But Akhenaten was not kind, he was not generous. He grew up free of worry with parents who were kind and generous, but he grew up selfish and took special joy in demeaning those that worked for him." Ammon recalled.

    Though Ammon/Hapimou had been free since he was 10, the hundreds of years of servitude in his line was hard to shed and he found himself more a well paid house boy than a respected scientist or any employee of significant value to Akhenaten Magdy. On this particular morning Magdy called Hapimou in to his home office to direct him to go speak to a local, though extremely reclusive, family. "Oh there you are Hapi, good of you to finally make it. I have a special errand I need you to run. I need you to go to the Economos house and speak to the young woman there. She is some sort of expert on the area's water based mythology and I want you to see if you can get any information about water based artifacts that might be in the area. She's expecting you." "Mr. Magdy, I'm wondering if this something someone else might be better suited for?" Hapimou questioned. "And I'm wondering why I am the boss and you are not and why you think it is you that is boss?" Magdy sniped with a mocked shrug. Hapimou sighed and left the office to do as he was directed.
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    The Economos House, the "Boat People house" or simply the "Boat House" as it was called by locals, was built directly next to the skeletonized remains of a wooden ship rumored to be hundreds if not thousands of years old. No one really knew much more about the family that lived there. There seemed to always be someone living there but other than occasional everyday goods that were billed to an account and delivered, and the extremely rare spotting of a household member in town, they kept to themselves which most of the local population liked. They were different and thus still outsiders though the home had been in the same family for centuries. When Adrastria answered the door, Hapimou caught his breath. He could instantly see why. She wasn't just different in every way from those in Al Simhara, she was stunning. Fair skin such as hers in this area was far less common than even his own blue skin, and unheard of from someone who had lived their entire life in the area. Her hair was so blonde it was almost white, and the sun radiated from it like it was spun platinum gold. Instead of being invited inside, Adrastria stepped out, shutting the door behind her. "You must be Mr. Mesbah" she greeted him, enthusiastically shaking his hand. "I have tea set up in the shop, or well what use to be the shop. Now it's more of a sitting area? I guess?" she bubbled as she lead him to the front corner of the home where an open room sported cushy sitting chairs and a table with a delicate rose tea set atop. Adrastria giggled as she poured the tea. "I've never done this with anyone but my mother, but I think this is how I remember doing it. Like this - you're suppose to hold your pinky out."
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    Adrastria spent the next two hours telling Hapimou, or Hapi as most called him, about her home, her heritage, her family, and why they were considered the local experts on the area's water mythology. "My people," she explained, "came from the islands surrounding Delos, Greece. This home was built by them to have a place to reside when fostering relations with Egypt and for commerce here. My family was chosen to steward it once the politicians no longer felt it was necessary to maintain continual residency. We're also in charge of the historical accounts from that time, as well as many of pieces of artwork that those politicians had collected while here." She giggled. "I know that might sound like we're servants, but it was actually a very honored position... is an honored position" she corrected herself like a teenager reminding themselves of test points before taking a quiz. She continued on, re-telling ancient history with amazing detail, as though she had actually been there. No doubt the result of hearing the stories many many times herself. Hapimou found himself drawn in like a bee to honey, his own questions echoing her enthusiasm. By the end of the meeting, Hapi was surprised when he heard "May I trouble you for another visit tomorrow?" come from his own mouth. Adrastria's entire face lit up, if that were even any more possible, and quickly agreed.
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    Their next visit lasted even longer and was followed by another. Soon the visits were no longer about the mythology of the area and they were just about spending time. Hapimou could not have found someone more interesting if he tried. Her parents had died years ago, though she didn't say how and Hapi considered it poor taste to ask. She did say that her lineage was that of arranged marriages, which explained her family's ability to remain so solitary in the area. Though she had lived her entire life in the home, she made up for the solitary life voraciously learning. She spoke six languages all together including Arabic, Ancient Greek, French, Mandarin, English and Italian. She was a master chess player and delighted in actually playing against another person after years of only practicing moves and counters against herself. Completely comfortable with herself, she never found the need to fill silence, just the pleasure of sharing time with Hapi. Though he was obviously not human, he felt absolutely no bigotry against him as so many other humans had treated him. Soon Adrastria was Hapi's every thought during the little free time Magdy allowed him and although he didn't know it, he was hers.
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    Eventually Hapi managed to build up the courage to invite Adrastria to his own home. He had been shocked when he learned that she had not had a single bite of local cuisine, subsisting mostly on river fish and vegetables from her own garden, and insisted he be allowed to have her as a guest for some traditional Egyptian food. When he arrived to pick her up he presented her with a fresh bouquet of flowers. He wasn't sure if her visit was something from purely friendship, and if it was he would accept that as a gift though a bittersweet one. However he wanted to make sure she understood that his feelings for her were more than that, though surely if she knew how much more she would be overwhelmed. She rode in his car, a "junker" by American standards but a luxury in Egypt, as though it was a ride in a spaceship. She had only read of them or heard about them on the radio, and her eyes fixed on the road ahead as she saw the land unfold before her faster than ever before. Hapi chose to make a vegetarian dish after considering most of Adrastria's meat had been fish, though she might have wished for something a little less spicy he realized a litte too late.
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    Afterward he taught her Dominoes, very popular amongst the local population. She caught on immediately and Hapi found himself blissfully enjoying her determination in silent admiration. All too soon she said she should be returning home and though Hapi could have easily enjoyed talking to her all night long, he understood that such a solitary life probably meant anything else might become overwhelming after awhile. When he dropped her off he became incredibly disappointed in himself when he could not muster the courage to ask for a kiss at her doorstep. So many things about her seemed so innocent that even though they had spent hours together he didn't want her to feel as though he was too forward. Instead he settled for staring into her aquamarine eyes as she shyly told him what a wonderful night she had before saying goodnight and stepping inside.
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    It was later that week when Magdy summoned Hapi to his house for morning coffee. "Tell me, Hapi, did you leave anything out of your report about meeting with the Boat Lady?" he asked cloyingly, using the moniker as though it was something unclean. "You mean Miss Economos?" Hapi heard himself correct Magdy in a rare moment of indignancy. "No, I included everything pertinent to your request." "Hmm... Well, no matter. She will be of little consequence soon enough. For now I need you to go the Pyramid of the Burning Sands. The workers have refused to excavate further until they are paid and I need a particularly rare resource in there that Morcucorp needs. For some new rocket fuel it's working on..' Hapi interrupted Magdy "Wait, what did you mean by "She will be of little consequence soon enough"?? he demanded. "Hapiiii" Magdy sat back in his chair. "I'm going to forgive your insubordinance because it's clear you enjoyed your little visit and might consider the Boat Lady a friend. You should know better than to mix outside of your own kind, the locals just won't like it. If it were up to me I'd probably give you my blessing, but it's not up to me" his words dripping with privileged disdain as though Hapi were a mutt dog and humans were purebred stallion horses. "Go home, get some sleep, or go back into your bottle or whatever your kind does." Hapimou left with the acrid taste of anger and humiliation at the back of his mouth.
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    Hapi started the next day early at the Pyramid of the Burning Sands. Though most of his days were spent in a business suit, this was why he went into the fields of study that he had and had ultimately decided to accept Magdy's job offer once he graduated. The smell of the dust smelled like home to him and he made quick work of deciphering exactly where the "heat of the Gods" was located and exactly how to get there through the passageways. When he got into the chamber he was both amazed and confused. Before him lay the mythic "flame fruit," he was sure of it, it's telltale glow lighting up what the flame traps and torches where not. As he picked them he searched his memory for everything he knew about the fruit, but scientifically could not conceive of either an effective rocket fuel ingredient or why Morcucorp, a private corporation that dealt with with anthropological discoveries, would be in the business of creating rocket fuel in the first place. By the time he had finished he decided to see his good friend Samir Amin. Samir had worked for MorcuCorp for years, allowing them to incorporate the ancient underground tunnels that ran under his property into their official headquarters, being naturally protected against espionage by the surrounding stone both physically and electronically, for a high position and a nice payout. If anyone could tell him anything it would be Samir.
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    When he arrived at Samir's, his wife Fatima answered the door. "Hapi! How nice to see you! What brings you by?" she greeted him warmly. "I came by to see if Samir had time for a game. I missed our weekly visit." "I know! Samir was lonely last Tuesday without his favorite adversary. Come, he's out back, I bet he'd love a game!." Fatima led him back to Samir and stayed for a few minutes while the men selected their tiles and then excused herself.
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    As the men played, Samir suspiciously quizzed Hapi "So what really brings you by today my friend?" "What? I can't miss time with my longest and closest friend?" Hapi feigned. As he carefully selected his tile, he also selected his words. He knew MorcuCorp was powerful, and he knew Magdy might be dangerous. After a few minutes he said, slowly, "Any idea why MorcuCorp would be venturing into rocket fuel? Or be looking for a rare resource in the Pyramid of the Sands?" He tried to sound nonchalant, but ended up sounding almost as suspicious as a comic book detective. He was sure Samir would burst out into laughter, easily dismissing his question with a logical answer. Instead Samir said, without looking up "I would not know of such things. But if I were looking I might see if I could find answers, perhaps in a book. Perhaps in a very old book in the Ancient Library." The Ancient Library, also part of the underground tunnel system though long separated from the other systems, was well known in town. It was under the care of Ahmed Diab, who's family had proudly cared for it for years. "For now," Samir said, "I must ask for a continuance. I was not expecting such a good game today and have some work yet to finish." Samir said, standing up from the table. Hapi could see that he was uncomfortable, but something told him Samir could be trusted at all costs. "Oh well yes, I'm sorry to impose on you my friend, hopefully we can resume at our regular time. Thank you for your hospitality!" Hapi replied. "Not at all, Hapi, You are always welcome here!" he warmly shook Hapi's hand. "Fatima! Can you please show our dear friend out?" Samir made his leave as Fatima appeared in the hallway. As they reached the door, Fatima pulled Hapi closer than usual as they shook hands. She whispered "If you cannot find answers at the library, look for me behind the house after dark" into his ear and then slightly louder than usual said "Thank you for visiting! It was a joy as always, Hapi." and showed him out.
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    Hapimou made his way over to Ahmed's. "Hapimou Mesbah! It's been too long, what brings you by?" Ahmed greeted Hapi when he answered the door. Inside, Hapi asked "I was told you might have a book on rocket fuel?" "Rocket fuel?? No, no I wouldn't have anything like that here, we only house antique books here, you know that Hapi." Hapimou did know that. "What about The Pyramid of the Burning Sands and the "Heat of the Gods?" Hapimou asked further. "Oh yes well that we DO have! One book. Although last week we wouldn't have, it's a popular book as of late. You must have heard about it from Dalida?" Ahmed guessed. Dalida Barakat was the local book store owner. She was also quite a skilled translator and was often hired to translate books from one language to another, ancient texts being her prime bread and butter outside of the bookstore. "No actually I didn't, I wasn't even sure you had such a book. "Well you're in luck my friend, I do indeed!" Ahmed said jovially and told Hapi where he could find it in the library.
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    He needed to see what was in that book, and then talk to Dalida Barakat. He was pretty sure Akhenaten had hired her to translate the book for him. Maybe she'd be able to tell Hapi what Akhenaten or MorcuCorp wanted with flame fruits. The fact that Samir had directed him to inquire further meant there was obviously something more behind this. After quickly scanning the book he felt he was no closer to knowing what was going on than before. The book seemed to contain nothing about using the flame fruits as fuel and mostly dealt with the politics at the time the pyramid was built. The sun was setting which meant the bookshop would be closing soon and if he still needed answers, he wasn't sure how long Fatima would wait for him behind her and Samir's home. He got to the bookshop just as Dalida was closing shop. He knew Dalida fairly well as he'd ordered most of his extensive reading collection through her shop. "Ah! I guess I have enough time for my favorite customer! It's always a good day when I get a visit from you Hapi!" She held the gate up long enough for him to come into the shop and closed it behind him. "I'm sorry to disappoint you today, Dalida, but I am not here for an order, but a question." "Ah, I see. Just as well, I've already closed out the cash register" she gave him a friendly wink. "What can I help you with Hapi? You can't need a translation, you're almost as good as I am with Ancient Egyptian text. Or did you have another translation you needed?" "Actually," Hapi began "I was hoping I could ask you a couple questions about you recently borrowing Ahmed's book on the Pyramid of the Burning Sands." "Oh yes! That was a fun one, very tricky. What are you looking to know?" Dalida offered. "Is there anything in the book about the Heat of the Gods, and perhaps rocket fuel?" "Rocket fuel?? Not at all!" she chuckled. "'Heat of the Gods' was the mythical flame fruits, which supposedly a very specific politician was incredibly allergic to, it would cause a reaction if even anyone that he came into contact with had been in contact with the fruit. So it was used as a security measure, so to speak, to assure that this politician or any working for him, would stay away from the Pyramid. There are also a great number of other traps as well, but this politician was mistrusted specifically." "Interesting. Was that what your client was interested in?" Hapimou asked. "Hapi! You know I'm not about to give up my best client's information!" she chided "But yes!" she whispered with a wink and a smile. More confused now than ever, Hapi made his way back to Samir and Fatima's house. She was waiting, as promised. She whispered "Samir thinks the house might have ears, and he's sure Akhenaten and MorcuCorp are up to something. If you come back tomorrow night, everyone will be gone for the weekend. We can get you in then. Here is a list of the security measures in place, and the password to Akhenaten's computer at headquarters. Remember, tomorrow, after dark" she whispered and then slid back inside.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    The next night Hapi waited a good hour after dark to assure he wouldn't run into anyone and went down the stairs that lead to MorcuCorp's headquarters in this area. He was able to disable the security measures just as Fatima had instructed. He was surprised when he found a supply room's chest filled with flame fruits. He was tempted to take them all, but knew it'd quite possibly clue Magdy on to the fact that someone was trying to figure out what he was up to, so he closed the lid on the chest and proceeded to Magdy's office.
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    Once seated at Magdy's desk he opened the laptop and entered the password he'd been given; it worked just as Fatima had promised. Searching through files, Hapi ran across one named "Nar Rê" or Fire of Ra. He opened it. Reading through it, it was clear that Magda had worked out that the "Pyramid of the Sky" had not always been called that. At one point in time it was actually a temple built by a Greek dignitary that, along with the "Old Kings," decided to build a temple over, and dedicated to, the greatest source of underground water in the area so that it was saved from the harsh sands in case the river bed dried or in case the Kings needed a place of safety. The dignitary paid for the construction in exchange of being named the temple's keeper, and the Old Kings assured their access by each possessing one of three powerful relics that would grant access to not only the "Temple of the Desert Ocean," but also every other temple in the area if the three were together. However generations later, followers of the sun god Ra overtook the temple's keeper through a deceitfully planned arranged marriage. They built the pyramid of the Sky over the temple and allowed descendants of the temple's former keepers only access to the temple through some sort of "purity" test... Somehow the Old Kings were able to somehow usurp the new keepers but left the pyramid atop to further protect the temple and the relic. "Adrastria?" Hapi thought under his breath. Whether it was true or not, Magdy's ominous comment about Adrastria being of little consequence worried Hapimou. Luckily Adrastria had already nervously asked Hapimou to see him the next day. It was the first time she had wanted to see him and Hapimou couldn't help but hope that it meant she felt about him the way he did about her. He suggested that he take her to dinner at the kafyh in town and she sounded relieved, and said she'd meet him there.
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    "What is this again?" Adrastria asked tentatively as she started to take a bite. "Falafel, it's ground beans and seasonings." Hapi responded as he watched her take a bite. "Oh this is much better, I thought I was going to die with that other stuff." Adrastria sounded relieved. "Was it really that bad??" Hapi asked. "My people don't do spicy well, we have more of a fresh and savory palette really." Hapi instantly thought of the flame fruit and what had been on Magdy's computer. He planned to ask her about it the next time they were alone, who knows what MorcuCorp lackeys might be around.
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    After dinner Adrastria suggested they go for a walk along the river. The land was most lush along there, and the day and started to cool so it seemed like a perfectly lovely idea, though Hapi could see that something was troubling Adrastria. He hoped his boss hadn't somehow caused her any sort of distress. He sensed she had something to tell him, none the less. As they walked toward the river they passed a home owned by a co-worker of Hapi's, and their new mother and her two foals were out to take a drink. It was amazing how at peace they were with Adrastria, and she with them. Hapi couldn't resist asking his co-workers if they had a bottle to feed the babies and though they politely acquiesced, Hapi could feel looks of curiosity and maybe a little bit of judgement as they looked on the two outsiders of the area as Adrastria fed the foals. Soon Hapi thanked the couple and led his and Adrastria's way toward the riverbank.
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    As they walked, Hapi could sense Adrastria growing anxious. When they reached the shade of some trees Hapimou took a deep breath and found the courage to reach down and tenderly take Adrastria's hand. She stopped dead. When Hapi turned to face her he saw her cheeks were wet with tears. "What's wrong, Andrastria??" Hapi questioned gently. "Oh Hapi, it's something terrible. I can't hardly bring myself to say it." she managed to just barely get out, voice fully in the clutched fist of emotion. Hapi reached out and wiped her cheek. "Tell me, Adrastria. You are not alone. Together we will face it" He said gently, desperate to reassure her. It literally pained him to see her so upset. But instead of calming her she burst into tears and threw her arms around him. "No!" she sobbed, "that's just it, we won't! Ever! My mate's been chosen! In a year's time we will wed! I cannot see you anymore Hapi! I just can't, it already hurts so much!" She pulled from his arms and ran down the river toward her home, leaving Hapi speechless, broken hearted, and worried. He tried to speak loud enough to call after her, but it was now his throat gripped with emotions and he wasn't even sure if he could hear himself as she disappeared around the bend in the river. By the time Hapi got to the bend, she was gone.
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    Hapi wanted to go after Adrastria so badly, but he knew he'd not have any idea what to say. Not just to try to sooth her, or to try and change her mind, but because he was truly worried for her. "Oh believe me, I know you said you never wanted to see me again but I'm worried there's an evil plot against you involving ancient fruit" Hapi mocked himself outloud. It was clear that Magdy thought that these three relics still had the capability of opening the rest of the tombs in the area, but Hapi knew that if he had any chance of keeping Adrastria safe, or finding out whether it was Akhenaten Magdy alone or MorcuCorp behind this was up to then he was going to have to look for answers in the Pyramid of the Sky. He drove home, changed into something more appropriate and left for the pyramid that was on the outskirts of town. As he made his way past the first two chambers, that had clearly been recently discovered by someone else, he couldn't hep but notice that though being called the Pyramid of the Sky, nearly all of the adornments seemed to be focused on water. From the lines on the wall that were tinted with blue lapis and near the floor as though it were water currents, vs lines being near the ceiling and lined with turquoise which would signify the sky, to the small chisled marble pond, the beautiful blue flooring and lush environment of just the first two chambers alone. At the far end of the second chamber he approached a section of the wall that clearly outlined a door. Reading the hieroglyphs, he leaned down, dipped his hand in the water and then placed it on the door. The large stone wall started to shake and then slowly lowered into the floor. Hapi made his way deeper into the pyramid.
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    The going was slow. The followers of Ra certainly did everything possible to make the pyramid above the temple complex and it's corridors precarious. When Hapi stopped to rest, looking at his watch, he realized he had work straight through night and in fact noon was approaching fast. He hadn't brought his tent or sleeping supplies and realized he'd better prepare for more slow going and hoped he'd find answers by Monday morning, so he turned and headed back the same way he had come.
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    As he walked along the sandy path from the pyramid back to the car Hapi caught a glimpse of something on the dune up head glinting in the sun, and as he got closer he saw it was a person, and then not just any person. It was Adrastria, laid out flat, and even from afar she looked pale and more frail than Hapi had ever seen. As he got closer he also noticed that she wasn't ... human.. Her legs were covered in beautiful shimmering coral and aquamarine scales. "Adrastria?? Adrastria are you ok??" he ran up the last few feet to her "Haapi?" she said weakly, coughing in the sand as she lifted her head. As he helped her up, she started stumbling down toward the ruins in front "Whoa whoa whoa Adrastria, just hold up" Hapimou pled. "Help, Hapi help him.." She begged. Hapimou followed her gaze and down the dune, at the base of the ruins, Akhenaten Magdy appeared to be pinned between the ruins and a large boulder. Hapimou ran down the dunes full speed but it was clear that he was too late. He checked for a pulse but Magdy was already cold to the touch.
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    Hapi looked back at Adrastria and shook his head. Adrastria turned away, devastated by the news. When he got back to her it was clear she was struggling just to remain standing. She stumbled, wiping her face as if to wake herself. "I need.. to get out of thissu.." as her legs gave out from under her. As Hapimou scooped her up she whispered frailly "take. me home. please..." but somehow Hapimou knew she didn't mean her home. He carried her to his car where she laid in the front seat, head on his lap, and again from the car into his house.
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    He carried her up the stairs and laid her on the bed in the guest room and went immediately to get a glass of water. "Adrastria, drink this." he said and helped her take a few swallows before she laid back down on the pillow. He refilled the glass and left it on the nightstand next to the bed, light on low. He whispered "You're safe now Adrastria, we're home" and backed out and shut the door behind him.
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    Though an actual shower sounded divine, he said the words needed to rinse all of the dust from both he and Adrastria. He changed out of his grimy clothes and set to work searching his book collection for everything he could. Though rumors of mummies had long existed, and of course aliens, out here in Egypt, he knew of no other known supernatural beings other than Genies but lore of mermaids, contrary to popular knowledge, actually originated in Mesopotamia just like lore of Jinn. He wanted to know everything he could, even though he knew much would be completely unfounded rumor, prejudicial and malicious. He had experienced that first hand with his own life. But if he could glean any information it would help him help her. The sun was on it's way up a second time since Hapi had slept when he heard Adrastria stir upstairs. Somehow he had made it through a second night without sleep and though it was starting to wear on him he was surprised by how awake he still felt.
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    Adrastria was nearly silent as she came down the stairs. Her head was hung, eyes terrified to make contact with Hapi's. "I... Guess I have a lot to explain... I couldn't tell you, we're not allowed. And that man, I didn't kill him... Or I mean, I didn't - it just happened so fast - " her voice choked as her throat tightened, extinguishing her words. "Hey hey, Adrastria, go slow, it's ok, I'm just so thankful you're alright. I didn't really know much what to do. I thought it would have been highly dangerous for me to put you into the bath, you were passed out... I don't know, I didn't .. I just maintained a check on you.." Now it was Hapi's whose word's trailed. Adrastria lifted her head and stared deep into Hapi's eyes. "If it wasn't for you I would have died. I . I didn't want to leave him, I would have died there if you hadn't come along." She wrapped her arms around him. As she pulled him close he couldn't help but notice how warm her skin still was. She felt cooler than when he first found her, but still very warm. He said "is there anything you need?? How do you feel??" She cast her eyes down again, embarrassed.
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    "What do you need Adrastria? If I have it, it's yours, if not I will find it." She looked up and smiled a little, eased a bit. "You wouldn't happen to have a bathing tub? I know there is no water in your pool but I need to soak my... feet" she fumbled. "Oh my! Oh yes I have a tub right upstairs, allow me to show you and get you some necessities. Are you hungry? I could summon us up something when you're done.." "Oh yes, please. I'm so very hungry. You said upstairs is the bathing tub?" He showed her the guest bath and handed her some towels and pointed out the guest toiletries and said if she needed anything else to just call to him. Adrastria was so relieved to just slip into the water that she hadn't even realized she didn't really have any kind of clothing for afterward until after she was halfway through her bath.
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    Adrastria came down stairs wearing Hapi's old bathrobe. "It was hanging on the door" she said shyly. "Oh of course that's absolutely fine. I have some lemon and avocado ceviche, don't worry it's only got some red onion for spice. And I thought you might like tea." Her hair was dripping wet but it didn't seem to bother her at all. It's darker hue reminded Hapi of honey, and it glistened in the sunlight. She was quiet at first but then in between mouthfuls began to tell Hapi everything. Just as Magdy's notes had read, the Pyramid of the Sun was originally a temple to an abundant life giving source of water. Obviously her people had a special need to be assured access to water, so they did indeed pay to have the temple built. And though that was not the only correct thing in Magdy's file, Adrastria shared much more. "For centuries, every night one of us must venture to the pyramid and into the temple to assure the relic of life remains safe and perform a cleansing ritual in the waters. We go at night so the trek is easiest for us. We can spend some periods of time in the sun, but it's always safest for us to make that long journey when it's coolest. I was making the journey last night when that man came out of nowhere and threw a flask of something at me, it burned horribly. I think it might have been made with flame fruit, which is highly toxic to us. I ran towards the ruins as fast as I could. He was fat and much slower so by the time he got to them he hadn't seen me run up to the top and hide... He stood at the base, taunting me. He knew my name, knew EVERYTHING. He said if I wanted to live I'd show him where the relic was and he'd let me "swim back to my bottom feeding fish people." I promise you I had never intended to hurt him! I had no idea who he was so I crept closer to get a closer look, crept up to that boulder.. He must have heard me because he lobbed another flask at me and when I leaned against the boulder for cover it just. . fell." her last words barely escaped her mouth. She sat there, stunned at her own words. Hapi stood up and took their empty bowls, placing his hand reassuringly on her shoulder as he did so. Her skin felt much cooler and he felt at least that worry ease from his mind. Then sat pack down, thinking.
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    Eventually he said "The way I see it I don't think you should go back to your place, or the temple, at least for awhile. We still don't know if Magdy was acting alone or with MorcuCorp." "Waiit a minute," Adrastria said warily, "You KNOW that man??" Hapi then tried to give her the bullet points of the last few days of his life, how he was going to tell her when she had given him the news of her engagement. It made sense to her, knowing how they'd met, and something just told her she could trust Hapi with her life, which he had just saved, she reminded herself. By the end of their tea Hapi had decided that he would go to Adrastria's house and get anything she might need and she could stay in the guest room here in his house while he used his job to find out all he could.
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    Hapi had been inside Adrastria's a time or two before but he still marveled at the beauty of it. The atrium with it's gorgeous pool. The tile work, the chiseled marble, the artworks. There was very little furniture, but something told him that there wasn't much to be needed when there was never any company to entertain, or relatives to put up for visits. He found her armoire and started collecting Adrastria's things.
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    While Hapi was away, after she combed and tied her drying hair back, Adrastria picked up one of the books Hapi had been looking for information about mermaids. As she read it she became at first shocked and then angry. She was still reading it when Hapimou returned with her things. She snapped the book shut and stood up, angry. "I found this on your desk. Is this what you think of me? That I'm a monster?? Do you think I lured that man to his death??!" Though she was angry, tears of pain welled in her eyes and Hapimou couldn't have felt any worse. Though he had done nothing wrong, he knew what it felt like to be treated like you were a monster because of some ancient stories told by drunken men late at night around a campfire. How many stories involving evil Jinn were there? Countless. Made by men too afraid of the unknown to assume anything but the worst. He didn't take it personally. She had just been near the brink of death, chased there by a man who wanted to hurt her, did hurt her. Add to that her guilt over his demise, deserved or not, drove her into self defense.
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    Hapi reached out and tenderly took her hand. "Listen to me, Adrastria" he started gently "When I brought you back I was worried I would lose you. I poured over every book I have on, well, your people? I know most of it is rubbish. Believe me, I know. I know what it's like to be feared by humans for nothing more than being different. But I needed to know if there was anything I could do to help you, I was just so afraid for you ..." His voice cracked as the thought of losing her came to the forefront of his mind again. He looked down at his feet trying to regain composure. "I mean God, Adrastria, don't you know? Don't you know how I feel about you?? I love you. I love you more than I've ever loved any single thing, including my own freedom.." Hapi looked up into Adrastria's aquamarine eyes, desperate to tell her she was safe, that he would never think she was anything but the most amazing and beautiful soul he's ever met. "I..." was all he got out before Adrastria leaned in and kissed Hapimou. The longest, softest, most dreamlike kiss either of them had ever even imagined.
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    Hapi felt his heart and soul explode. As the kiss started to turn into something more Hapi pulled back. "Adrastria, I just want you to know, you're safe and you don't have to do anything for that safety. If this isn't something you want, then I will respect that and" "Hapi?" Adrastria interrupted "All I want is you" she said in a soft, delicate almost whisper of a voice, her eyes gazing directly into Hapi's own. She wrapped her arms him and pulled him in against her, closer and even more passionately kissed him, almost melting into him. Hapimou scooped her up in his arms and carried her upstairs once again, but this time he didn't lay her down in the guest room, he brought her to his own.
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    He laid her down on his bed and she pulled him down toward her. She had no other dream in the world than to be with Hapimou. He was kind, generous, patient, brave, intelligent. The roughness of his hands, the sharpness of his mind, the tenderness of his soul... They kissed for what felt like forever and not a single minute all at once. Only once did she stop pulling him toward her. He instantly pulled back, searching her eyes. Hers were locked into his when she said "Oh how I love you too, Hapimou" before pulling him against her one more time.
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    To be continued...
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    The next few weeks, despite themselves and their circumstances, they couldn't help but be blissfully happy. Adrastria didn't mention the arranged marriage other than to say she was trying to think of something that would spare the honor of her mother and father. And as hard as Hapi looked, he could just not find anything to indicate that it was MorcuCorp behind Magdy's actions. Magdy had been considered missing for a few days before his body was discovered eventually but nothing had come of it. The two rarely spoke of it simply because there really wasn't much left to talk about. Adrastria had already told Hapi everything, so really what was left to talk about? Sand is a bugger of thing forensically. Any evidence left on the ground is blown away within minutes usually, and what's left behind is sandblasted by the elements within as little as a few hours. Magdy had been dead days before he was found. When Hapi would "work from home" - which became code for investigating MorcuCorp - Adrastria was all too happy to indulge herself in Hapi's library. But they always found joy in sharing every free moment with each other. Adrastria began teaching Hapi French, and Hapi found himself doing everything he could to outwit her in dominoes far faster than he had anticipated.
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    Adrastria loved the night. Mermaids that spend most of their time underwater usually find the sunlight, the way it comes through the waters, the way the fish wake up to it, as a lovely thing but to Adrastria it meant danger. Not just physically but after being raised to never let anyone see you as you are, the night offered a whole world that you got to enjoy. Some nights she spent hours out there. Hapi had the pool filled, which had been drained since Hapi graduated high school, and Adrastria would enjoy the "slightly bigger bathing tub" as they both jokingly called it. An old junk car is a luxury. A pool was usually seen as either frivolous or boasting for someone of Hapi's standing, or his father's, but it was a gift from Akhenaten Magdy's father, house and all, when he granted Hapi and his father's freedom to them. Hapi's father didn't swim so as soon as Hapi graduated high school he insisted that his dad drain it, wanting to go to college and "put away childish things." But now Hapi was so much more grateful for Ammon Magdy's generosity than ever before. He had taught Hapi that there was no such thing as true generosity without true gratitude. True gratitude is the birthplace of generosity, it has nothing to do with money. It starts when someone is truly grateful for what has been given to them, so that they may in turn use those gifts to give to others. Ammon Magdy didn't give the Mesbahs a house with a pool, he gave them a place to be a family, where status among others was mute.
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    Some nights they were simply like the young couple completely in love that they were.. Hapi brought his parent's old TV out and Adrastria was instantly captivated by everything. She especially liked comedies and sci-fi movies saying that actually seeing those stories were far better than anything she could have imagined. Adrastria also had a crack wit and often would catch Hapi off guard with something that had him in tears while pretending she didn't know what was funny at all. It was almost a science to her. They were truly happier than they had ever been.
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    The first true wakeup call was when Hapi came home to find Adrastria horribly distraught. She tried to hide it but as soon as he asked, she couldn't stop herself. Tears poured over her cheeks dripping off her chin. "Adrastria? What is it? What's wrong?" Hapi gently prodded. She tried to compose herself, managed to say "We're going to be killed, and it's all my fault" before the tears came again. And then in between staggard breaths and choked voice said "I'm pregnant Hapi, I'm pregnant and we're going to be killed for it."
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    "Wait, what? Explain this to me, is your life in risk from this?? Is pregnancy difficult for your people?" Hapi, truly concerned & knowing nothing about mermaid gestation, searched Adrastria's eyes as he asked. "*snf* No no, all of us, you, me. and.." Adrastria looked down and composed herself. "It's a law, the highest of all laws. We are not allowed to mate outside of our people. The last time it happened was when my people lost control of the temple. It's punishable by death, of everyone involved, including any vdélygma!" she said in a disgusted and mocking voice. Hapi didn't know the term but it was easy to see what her people thought of young with parents other than Mer. "In fact that's why some very terrified mers, would lure men to their death. They were afraid of their daughters being tempted, or sisters, or sons..." her voice trembling. "Ok slow down, they don't know, right??" "No, they probably don't even know I've been gone from my home, or the temple. We only hear from them two times a year, if that." "Then right now the best for all of us is just to be calm and figure out a way forward. They don't know you're gone, they don't know about me at all and the only person that can connect you with me is dead, noone even knows you're here. I know this is all very very frightening, but we will find a way, I promise." Hapi's deep and comforting voice said, wrapping his arms around Adrastria.
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    Hapi made an amazing father-to-be. His own father had such a strong sense of love and family that Hapi had always known he wanted to be a father, and he knew in his soul that Adrastria was the only woman he would ever ever want to have as their mother. So he supported Adrastria in every way he could. They read books about pregnancy and about babies. Adrastria assured him that mermaids births were extremely gentle, water births. So he rubbed her back, listened to her, and loved her. Eventually the plan to keep them all safe from Adrastria's people would simply be to disappear - to let them think she had become victim to a water predator, such as a crocodile or a shark which Adrastria occasionally encountered while diving, or to dying in the desert, which had happened to more than one of her ancestors including Adrastria's mother. The plan was to simply leave the country, move somewhere close to the ocean, and live out the rest of their lives together after the baby was old enough for such a move. Until then, the regular deliveries scheduled to her house stopped being placed, the garden was left neglected, freshly cleaned laundry left on the line. Adrastria had spent her life so reclusivly that she really didn't need more than that. She missed the fresh sea waters by her home, and the sound of the waves, but she knew that she would one day again have those things. What she needed right now was Hapi, and her, and their love together.
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    So as the days moved forward in time as they do, they found their horrible experiences fading further and further into the past. Hapi relished passing the time taking care of his love and child. Though learning French was exchanged for learning how to change a diaper, and new ways to make fried chicken.. So.. much.. fried... chicken... Hapi would always reply "Oui oui mon chérie!" to the very few requests that Adrastria made, which always made Adrastria giggle.
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    Kynthia was born right at home during a beautiful clear full moon, and though Adrastria was tired, as every brand new mother is, the birth was remarkably easy. While Adrastria rested and regained her health, Hapi basked his new daughter in unfettered love and devotion. His favorite parts of each morning were getting his daughter when she awoke and seeing her face light up as soon as she saw his face. His favorite times at night were rocking his daughter to sleep and then gently placing her in her crib. While he maintained a job, he used his work to secure new identities for he, Adrastria and Kynthia. Samir had been promoted to Magdy's position and had put Hapi in charge of tying up all of Magdy's projects together for him. While doing so he ran across several people who weren't entirely on the frontest part of the law, but there were definitely much worse. The plan was to wait until Kynthia was 4 or 5 months old and then Hapi would quit his job and they'd just disappear. Hapi had slowly started liquidating his assets including his retirement fund and the few bonds that his father had willed to him. They didn't need much and what they did need could be provided for in any number of ways.
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    And then, while Hapi was at work, there was a knock on the door. A persistent, loud knock followed by a voice booming "Open up! Egyptian National Police!" Panicked, Adrastria opened the door. Before her stood an officer, arrogant and aggressive. "I am Captain Mahmoud of the Al Simhara Police. I'm here to ask Hapimou Mesbah some questions" he said forcefully as he pushed his way inside. "He, uh, he's at work right now." While it was true Adrastria said it desperately hoping that it would satisfy the officer enough to leave. Instead he continued
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    "Well I'm looking for Mr. Mesbah in conjunction with the death of Akhenaten Magdy. We reviewed a journal owned by Mr. Magdy and he did not seem to trust Mr. Mesbah very much at all. Seems Mr. Mesbah had a habit of questioning his boss's authority." "Oh no he didn't, he did everything for that evi .. for that man!" Adrastria found herself defending Hapi before she even thought of the consequences. "And you are??" Officer Mahmoud demanded. "I'm Adrastria Economos" Adrastria replied timidly. "You? You're in Magdy's journal, too. Mr. Magdy seemed to think that you two had formed an alliance against Mr. Magdy, even blaming you for Mr. Mesbah's disruptive behavior... So I had a little look into your past. I talked to the shop keep who tells me that Mr. Mesbah's been buying infant supplies - a crib, diapers.. While your account, paid for by some man in Greece,has sat for weeks unused. So I wonder if I called the owners of your store account if they would be very interested in hearing these details?" Officer Mahmoud said while circling his finger in front of Adrastria's stomach. Adrastria could feel her heart racing. The officer was so loud, she was terrified he'd wake Kynthia and it would all be over right then and there. She said "If you'll excuse me for a minute I will call Mr. Mesbah at his office" and excused herself upstairs to shut the door to the nursery, where Kynthia was napping and try to compose herself.
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    She closed the door to the upstairs bathroom and splashed some cold water on her face. "Ok, get it together" she thought to herself. She knew it was impossible but she kept imagining that outside where the guard of her people, who would slice their heads off right in the street. "I said GET IT TOGETHER" and patted her face dry with the back of her hands. When she came back down stairs she found Officer Mahmoud flipping through one of Hapi's books on the Pyramid of the Sky. "Interesting reading materials in Hapimou Mesbah's home" he said. "They seem to be exactly about what Akhenaten Magdy's journal was convinced of a plot against him involved. You tell Mr. Mesbah that we will be looking to speak with him very soon. And if he knows what the best for him, he will arrive at our headquarters for questioning by the end of the week." And then he turned and left, leaving Adrastria terrified and panicked.
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    When Hapi got home from work Adrastria met him at the door and immediately began telling him what happened. "They're going to come, Hapi, they're going to come. I know it. He'll call them and then they'll know and then they'll come! Hapi replied "then we'll just leave sooner. I could have our lose ends tied up by Monday, maybe even Friday. I could get a lawyer, answer their questions, and by the time they've taken any action at all we will be in another country." Hapi tried to comfort her. He was scared. He was really scared. But it did no good to either Adrastria or Kynthia to panic. He had planned for this. He had hoped there wouldn't be any evidence, assuming the only evidence against either of them was at the ruins. He had no idea that Magdy had a journal, nor that Magdy was so self absorbed to see anything between Adrastria and Hapi as a plot against him, but all that meant was that the timeline needed to be sped up.
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    "Please Hapi, please listen to me" Adrastria pleaded. "You don't know my people. If he calls them, tells them what he knows, they will kill her!!" she buried her face in her hands. Hapi pushed Adrastria's hair from Adrastria's forhead and behind her ear. In his deep, comforting voice he said "I will never allow that to happen. EVER, Adrastria. No mater what, I've told you that you are safe. And you will always be safe with me." He wrapped her in his arms until he felt her calm. "I'm going to go take off my jacket and peek in on Kynthia, ok?? And then we can talk about where we're going to live, ok? Why don't you go get a glass of water and sit down, oui oui mon chérie?" "Yes," Adrastria said in the smallest voice he'd ever heard from her "ok." As she went to the kitchen, and he turned to go upstairs, he couldn't shake the feeling that everything, his whole world, was a tower of cards about to collapse. But he knew whatever happened, as long as they were together and stuck to the plan and didn't panic, they would make it through.
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    Adrastria looked out at the desert. It was the only home she'd ever known, but she had never really known it at all. She hadn't known much of it except her little corner of it but oh how she had loved her corner, her life. Parents that love, and gave, and valued truth and honesty and thought and beauty over violence and possession and power. And now Hapi, and Kynthia. She had dreamed of teaching Kynthia the heritage she herself had learned. She knew she had to leave it all behind. She knew it was the only way to keep Kynthia and Hapimou safe. She must never know Adrastria's history, it was the only way. When Hapimou found her on the back porch he was carrying Kynthia. "Look who's all awake and smiles" he said, sitting down, hoping it would bring some light to his love's eyes. Adrastria turned to him and said "Will you wed me, Hapimou? Tonight? At the Temple?" Hapimou was both stunned and the happiest man alive all at once. "Adrastria, I would love nothing more but I.. I ... I do not know if I would be able to get all of the paperwork in order, I would have to che" "No paperwork" Adrastria said "Just you, me, our blessing Kynthia. I do not know the wedding rituals here, or even of my world. But I want to pledge my love to you, forever, and be your wife. Tonight. Please say yes, Hapi." "Oh.. my darling, if that is what you truly want, than my heart wants nothing else in the world." Hapimou said, "what do we need?" Adrastria told Hapi that her wedding dress - her mother and grand mother and great grandmother's wedding dress - was at her house. "Give me some time and then meet me at the temple entrance. I don't want to take Kynthia into the temple, just to the altar at the temple entrance. Meet me there." As Adrastria walked through her house she wondered if it would be the last time she would ever set foot in it.
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    Hapi put on the suit that his father had worn on his day of nationalization. It was traditional for a freed Jinn to spend his first free money on a handsomely tailored suit, a sign that he was no longer bound to wear what any man had ordered, he was free to wear vestments crafted from his own earnings of his desire. Hapi's father's suit was a rich sapphire navy velvet jacket embroidered with intricate gold embellishments atop a silk vest and trousers. Hapi was sure his father was taller, but it fit him perfectly. "I guess all our fathers are giants in our eyes" he thought. Then he picked up Kynthia "Am I a giant to you? Am I?" He cooed to her as she gripped his finger. He arrived at the temple just before Adrastria and was still holding Kynthia when Adrastria stepped into the temple. Hapimou felt as though someone had knocked him in the chest with a baseball bat. Before him stood a Greek Goddess, in a beautiful floor length silk gown embellished with gold threading in an intricate pattern on her chest and down through the straps. In her hair she wore a crown of flowers. Hapimou laid Kynthia gently down on her play mat and blanket and joined Adrastria in front of the altar. "I'm not really sure how this goes." he said nervously. She was so incredibly beautiful he felt like he was looking at a dream and if he said the wrong thing he might wake up.
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    Adrastria's normally innocent and bubbly demeanor was gone, Before him stood a woman of poise and grace. She smiled gently and took his hand and said "I'll start." She took a men's ring with a beautiful golden pearl and slid it onto his finger. "This is the symbol of my eternal love and devotion. I have never loved another, and I will never love another. I pledge my love, my life, my soul to you forever. And through this ring, whenever we're apart, you will look down to this symbol and know my love is endless." Adrastria let her hand linger on top of Hapi's for a moment, and then Hapimou started to speak. "I do not have a ring to give you, but what I can give you I freely do so. I gave you my heart. From the moment I laid eyes on you I knew that no other would understand me as you. We were both outsiders, alone in a land that did not like or want us. Through your eyes I saw the man I wanted to be. A man that was not judged by fear or nervousness but by his actions and his character. I have given you my heart, but now I want to give you something more. I pledge to be that man, for you and you alone. I pledge to show you more love than you've ever known, to make you laugh, to shore you up when you feel weak, to keep you safe, to give everything I have, everything that I am and will be, to devote my every waking moment to you, Kynthia.. " Hapi smiled at his daughter contentedly staring bright eyed at the two of them "and to whomever else might join our family in the days to come for all the days that come here after."
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    Hapimou wrapped his arms around Adrastria and they lost themselves to each other in the kiss that followed. All notions of space and time completely disappeared until a small "achoo" brought them back to their senses. Slowly they pulled from each other. Adrastria walked over and picked up Kynthia "Now let's get you out of this dusty ol' place my little desert dew drop" she cooed to her. Then raising her eyes to meet Hapi's, Adrastria said "Take us home my husband"
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    By the time they got home little Kynthia was fast asleep. She wouldn't wake, possibly until morning as she had been sleeping for longer stretches. As Adrastria gently put her in her crib, Hapimou gazed at them both with wonder. How was it he, once a slave, was the one man in the entire world blessed enough to have this he thought. Never mind karma, no good deed could have given anyone this. And forget about luck, this wasn't like winning the lottery. This was more than winning life, the universe, and everything in it. It was fate. When Adrastria finished putting Kynthia down she turned and looked into Hapimou's with a longing he had never seen. She slid past him, her silk dress slipping across the back of his hand as she passed, she let her eyes linger as she reached and let her fingertips run gently from his wrist to his fingertips where they lingered just long enough to say "come with me." As they laid in each others arms once again Adrastria pulled from him. "I can't tell you how happy you've made me. Thank you for this. This... This was perfect. You are perfect, Hapimou. My love eternal." Hapimou stared deep into her eyes. They were different somehow, sadness in them. It would be hard for them to leave the only home either had ever known, but love conquers all. Hapimou knew their love was fierce and either would do anything and everything to protect each other. As he bent down to kiss her, he said "Je t'aimerai toujours, ma Chérie" - I will always love you, my dearest."
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    Adrastria wasn't upset at all when little Kynthia didn't sleep through the night. Her mother had lain awake listening to Hapimou's deep breaths of sleep. When she made the slightest whimper, the first of several that always followed until a fuss to wake mom or dad, Adrastria slipped out of bed and into Kynthia's room. She scooped her up. "Oh oh such a fuss is not needed today my little dessert dew drop." She changed and fed Kynthia and then rocked her back to sleep, drinking every second of it in. When Kynthia was asleep, Adrastria sat frozen not sure if she could move. She wasn't sure if she could find the will. And then Kynthia let out a little slumbering coo and Adrastria knew she had to. She steeled herself, stood up and buried her face into Kynthia's neck, taking in every last scent of her skin. She laid Kynthia back in her crib and whispered "Mommy will always love you. Always and without end." Adrastria slipped out of the nursery and into the master bedroom. She walked over to the dresser and pulled out her only pair of denim. She had begged Hapi to buy them for her at the market during one of his trips. He did, of course, but felt awkward in doing so and they had laughed about it together later. She slid them on and then went to the hamper. On top lay Hapi's favorite jersey from college. He still wore it around the house. She pulled it out and slipped it on. It smelled of Hapi's shampoo, his soap, of his skin and a liiiittle bit of his cologne.
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    She walked over to Hapimou's side of the bed and stood there, watching him as he slept. She didn't know how long she stayed there, but she didn't move until she promised him in her heart over and over and over that her love for he and Kynthia was eternal. She placed a letter on his nightstand and leaned over and kissed his forehead gently and left the room. She set her suitcase down by the door and turned and looked at this place where she had lived a life so beautiful she wouldn't have believed it except for being there. This was her family's home. A family that she would do anything for, even die for. And now she was leaving it, for them. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and as she bent down to grab her suitcase the tears fell upon it's worn leather. She gripped it's handle, extra hard as though it were a life saving lever she had to pull, and she forced herself to stand, open the door, and shut it behind her.
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    When Ammon and Shari had finished sharing the story of their beginnings, silence hung in the air only for a moment. "So, you just abandon us??" Niella questioned flatly. "Little one, I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision for your mother. Why don't we give her a chance?" Ammon proposed gently. Niella shrugged "Who's stopping her, Dad? I just asked the question." Niella responded, clearly reacting to the pain of growing up without her mother.
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    Shari then told them all of the events that only she knew. "I knew that if I were going to keep you safe I was going to have to face them, which I could not have done with you at my side" she glanced at Ammon. "At best my people would have kept us all prisoner for the rest of our days. What kind of mother would I have been to willingly put my child in that situation??" She continued "So I did the only thing I could think to do. I changed the game by changing the play, as my dad would say when he was about to beat me at chess. I took the artifact from the temple, I hid it, and then told them that if they ever wanted to have it again that no harm would come to us by their hands. But such a gamble came at great expense. They didn't want my defiance of their laws to encourage others to do the same. They demanded that I never see or speak of you again, that I give up my family's royal position, and my very people forever - that I walk os ánthropos - as man. That I give up my tail and scales." Shari gripped her heart. She had never said the words out loud and the heartache was so overwhelming Shari could actually feel every fracture at her core.
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    Karlie tried to let her mother's words sink in. Her mother use to be a mermaid?? Her best friend turned out to be her half sister, a genie?? "Wait, please slow down mom. Are you saying that they made you turn into a human?? I'm still having a hard time coming to grips with Niella as a sister, and now you're telling me you're human, but you use to be mer... What am I?? Am I human??" Karlie pled. Shari swallowed hard "Not exactly." "Not exactly?? What does that even mean 'not exactly'??" Karlie demanded. Shari steadied herself. "You see, for a mer to become human we have to visit an appointed mágissa, a person trained in the ways of magic. This was not our people's ways but there were times where such a skill set could be useful so the royal court has always maintained relations with at least one. I was sent to one here, in Isla Paradiso. I was granted the right of my last swim from there to here. I took my time, knowing they'd be the last days of what I had known my entire life. It took me almost two months... By the time I had gotten here, I realized I was pregnant.. with you. So the witch offered me a choice. She was old, so very old. And had never had a child. She didn't much like them, never wanted them. But she didn't want her family's magical heritage to end. So she told me that I could either agree to allow her to pass her magic on to you, or explain your existence to the royal court. Please understand, Karlie. Everything was so complicated. My life had been nothing to prepare me for these impossible decisions. So I drank two elixers that day. One to turn me human, and one to turn you" "witch" Karlie finished. "My entire life has been a lie. And the worst part is not finding out that I can't trust you, because in my head I can understand why you made the choices you made. It's finding out that you don't trust me. You chose not to. Why haven't you told me?? I don't even know who I am now.. I mean, am I .. wait.." Karlie stopped, she counted under her breath on her fingers. Her eyes widened. She looked up at Ammon "Are you my father??" she asked, almost bewildered.
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    "Is he, mom??" Karlie demanded. Ammon and Niella, this thought having not occurred to either of them, both gasped as Shari said "Well who else would it be, Karlie Ana?!" When Shari realized what she had just said out loud, she slowly looked over to Ammon. And then, almost inaudibly she said "I've told you 100 times that I have only and would only ever be with your father." Ammon sat stunned. In fact everyone did.
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    "Now I think I really might pass out." Karlie said, clearly just as overwhelmed as when the evening started. "And with that," Raj, who had been perfectly quiet up till this point, stood up and looked at Ammon and Shari "and all due respect, I'm going to interrupt this... no offense but bizarre Jerry Springer episode so that my pregnant wife, who hasn't eaten since lunch and who spent this afternoon literally over a hot grill for our guests, can get some sustenance. I'm going to take her out on the back deck to get some fresh air and eat the sausages that survived. I invite you all to do the same." Connor and Raj helped the girls to their feet and sat them down at the picnic table first and handed them a plate before sitting across from them. Shari sat down in the patio chair next to Karlie which left the only seat for Ammon directly across from Shari. As Shari sat down she looked to her daughter's face to tell her how sorry she was, she was overcome with emotion when she noticed her daughter silently gazing at her father, a look of hope Shari had never seen in Karlie's eyes before. Ammon was too enraptured by his true and only love sitting across from him to notice, which filled Karlie with a well spring of love for Ammon. The fact that she already knew how much her mother had, and obviously still, meant to him before Karlie even knew his first name flooded her heart. She turned away just before Ammon let his gaze follow from his love to daughter to daughter. He closed his eyes and took in a long deep breath and then picked up his sausage and bit into it.
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    Everyone ate their hours-cold sausages in uncomfortable silence as they processed the night's events. No one could really get a firm grasp on reality no matter how still the houseboat was on the water that evening. It was if everyone had walked into a very small tilting ice rink, in their socks. It was a lot to process. The single attempt to break the silence was when Connor randomly blurted "You know Karlie, these sausages might even be better cold." Niella put her's down and stared directly at Connor, obviously not enjoying his but trying to make others think he was. "Really, Connor? Really??" Niella said, barely moving her lips. Ammon immediately looked at Shari, hoping she'd recognize her own biting sarcasm coming from her daughter. When he saw her eyes were already saying the same thing to him, they both broke out snickering. Niella picked up her sausage and bit into it, eyes burrowing into Connor with a glare so pointed he spent the rest of his dinner avoiding eye contact with her.
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    As everyone was clearing the plates and leftovers from dinner, Karlie caught her mom gazing out at the sea with that same hope that Shari had seen in her own eyes earlier. "Hey why don't you stay and enjoy the evening air, mom?" Karlie suggested softly and reached down to give her mom's hand a squeeze. Sheri squeezed her daughter's hand in return and nodded yes. As Connor and Raj did the dishes and put away leftovers, Karlie caught Niella on her way upstairs. "Hey yeah so how crazy was that?" she said. "Beyond." Niella returned. Then she said "I want to apologize if I came off hostile at your mo... at ou.. at Mom. I hope you know I've always loved her to death, it was just so much. I guess I just let that moment of frustration out." Niella truly did love Shari, though she was still having a hard time reconciling that with the sadness of growing up without her.
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    "Trust me," I understand. It's been a very... unexpected and overwhelming day for everyone I guess. I suppose maybe somehow we always knew? I mean I think we both loved each other like sisters long before we knew we actually were. Whatever happens, how ever any of this turns out, can we maybe promise that we always will?" Karlie asked in a rare moment of vulnerability. She had always seemed like the reserved one while Niella was the more expressive in the friendship but now she felt as fragile as she ever had. Niella responded "Karlie, I will always be here, I will always love you. I promise with my whole heart" and she wrapped her arms around her little sister. She felt the brick in her throat as she managed to eke out "that's what big sisters are for" before giving her sister a extra long hug.
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    Ammon saw Shari sitting at the patio table gazing out to the dark of the waters. He remembered how she use to love the night as he looked out across it. If he closed his eyes he could hear the sands of Egypt and feel the tickle of her hair blowing across his face as they looked up at the night sky. He knew because he had stood outside countless nights and thought that very thing until he could take it no longer. Sometimes he forced himself to, almost as a punishment for losing her. It was a very bitter but deeply cherished memory. "Beautiful night" he said, because he literally couldn't think of a single thing else to say. "Mmm. Yes it is" Shari said quietly and looked back out to sea. Eventually she asked Ammon if he'd like to join her, pointing to the seat across from her. Ammon accepted and sat down. He simply could not believe his wife was seated across from him.
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    "I'm not sure how this goes," Ammon said, shrugging his shoulders. They had both fantasized about this moment countless times but neither of them were prepared for it this way. In fact neither of them really actually prepared for the moment at all. "I'm sure you have something you must want to say to me, or ask me?" Shari offered. Though she still believed her decision was the right one, that belief was also wrapped in a thick layer of heartbroken guilt. "I just want to know why, Adrastria? Did I appear so weak a man that you thought I couldn't keep you and our daught.. Daughters safe??" "Is that what you think?? That I left because I thought you were weak?? Hapi you are the strongest man I've ever known. That is why I left Kynthia with you. Because I knew no matter what they did to me, you would keep her safe. That if I didn't know where she was that she and you would be safe, out in the world and that if she was with you that you would always protect her" Shari so desperately needed to explain.
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    "Hapi I know I can never ask you to forgive me, but I do with my whole heart hope some day you understand. And maybe that both of our daughters do someday too." Sheri's voice cracked and tears pooled in her eyes before spilling over her cheek. "And I will do anything, anything for that" she said, a steeled determination renewing her voice in resolve. "Well the first thing I need to know is are the girls safe?? Is this relic still hidden?? Do they still not know about Karlie??" Ammon questioned soberly. "Oh, *snf* they're both totally safe. They even have the relic back." "I'm sorry, what??" Ammon said, almost sternly. "The law was abolished... by the demand of the people.." Shari went on to explain that despite their best efforts and even banishing Shari to Sunlit Tides, Adrastria's story of sacrifice and heartbreak resonated throughout her people like the ballad of a legendary hero until eventually the law was abolished by royal decree. "I didn't even know about it until Mer started showing up in the news around Isla Paradiso six-seven years ago. By then they had witnessed the discovery of so many supernaturals - vampires, werewolves, fae, the young ones - or well the ones our age, had rallied and convinced the old ones to share their history with the world. They chose here because they had already been swimming these waters since fleeing the battle of Greece in 1941."
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    "I actually know that last bit, or at least knew that the local legends of them here were strong, it's why I chose here to raise our daughter. Taught her - well taught us both how to scuba dive, just hoping to find something that would lead us to you. I did run into one mermaid, when Niella was 15 or 16. I asked her about you she very nervously told me you had been "sent away" and then she swam away forever. I came to the same diving spot every day trying to find her again until the Egyptian Embassy came knocking on our door to question me about Mesbah." "Oh no, Hapi!" Shari exclaimed! "No, no it's alright now, my love I mean, uh, ... Adrastria. In exchange for immunity for both of us, I agreed to go back to work for Morcucorp undercover until there was enough evidence to shut them down forever. That's really what I was doing there, well that and trying to find out anything I could about where you were." Ammon explained. "Oh Hapi, do you think Niella will ever find it in her heart forgive me?? Or you??" Shari's eyes had started to fill again.
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    "Listen, I cannot speak for Niella, I can only speak of her." Ammon said gently. "And the young woman I know her to be is forgiving, and understanding, and non-judgmental. And she grew up wanting to know her mother more than anything in the whole world. Right now that hurts but the daughter I know in my heart will eventually see that for what I see it as - a miracle that the universe has given us. How could it be anything less?" And just like that, like the first trickle of a spring thaw, both Ammon and Shari slipped from the darkness they had been in for the last 26 years and into the warmth of love they had for each other. Soon they found themselves sharing stories of their daughters growing up and their experiences as a single parent with barely a breath between.
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    They talked all through the night. As the sun rose and the birds awoke, and the stars started to fade in the sky they were still nowhere close to talked out, but they knew the night's end was way past due. As they looked across the table from each other, Shari kicked the ground shyly. "I really should go. Piggygirl, my dog, has been alone since I went to work yesterday morning pretty much. She has free roam and plenty of food and water, but my girl is probably really lonely" she said. "And I have to actually get ready for work, I start at the science lab today... But I would really like to see you. Can we please continue our talk, as soon as you're up to it of course" Ammon asked nervously. "Oh Hapi nothing would make me happier... But I really feel like maybe I should talk to Karlie first, and maybe you should talk to Niella? I just want to give her whatever she needs right now. Please tell me you understand." Shari's eyes searched his. "Of course I understand, and you're exactly right. This is bigger than just us. May I please call you sometime, then? Maybe after we get a sense for how the girls feel?" Ammon persisted, not able to think about anything other than the what his heart was doing right then. Rejoicing at seeing his soulmate and irrationally panicking at the thought of her watching her leave.
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    As they both stood, Ammon rushed over to help pull Shari's chair back. When she turned to face him she reached her hand out and placed it on his chest gently. "I almost still can't believe you're here. I keep feeling like I'm going to wake up, in a pool of snot and tears like so many other mornings." She let her finger's slide down his arm and as she did he brought his hand up to her elbow and then he slid them both around her and hugged her close. For a moment they lingered and then Shari pulled back enough to place her hands gently on the sides of Ammon's face. "Oh how I've missed your face." She whispered before stepping back.
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    As she did Ammon's fingers ran through Shari's hair. "Your hair is still the softest thing I've ever felt" and as his eyes met hers he said "next to your skin. I've never forgotten the touch of either" he said as his hand caressed her cheek. Shari held it to her face for a moment and then kissed his hand and walked past him. She couldn't look at him as she passed, worried she'd not have the strength and she knew it was what was best for the girls. And maybe herself. She had built so many walls around her heart she wasn't sure how she could handle if they all fell at once. As she opened her door piggygirl was in the process of hopping down off the couch, no doubt sleeping there, to greet Shari. Shari knelt down to her girl. "Oh I am so sorry for leaving you for so long my poor baby. You're never going to guess who Mimi found today!"
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  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    author's note: please excuse the disappearing picnic table. A crash during the pics brought me back to a save that didn't have the table out and I didn't notice until after I had put the story boards together. :) I apologize.





    Ammon knew it was foolish to think that he might be able to catch a quick catnap before heading into Nautilus for the day, but none the less he felt he should try. After an hour of his mind and heart racing he decided to let the ocean air refresh his senses before reporting in and climbed the stairs to the main floor. He assumed he would be the only one up; it was still early and he hadn't heard anyone above. When he stepped onto the deck he saw he was wrong. Karlie was staring out to sea, lost in thought "Oh I'm sorry, I didn't know you were up dear. I was just going to get a breath of fresh air before heading into work, sorry to intrude!" he said, wondering if he should turn and head back in, leaving Karlie any respite she might have been looking for. "No, please, sit" Karlie softly said nodding to the seat to her right.
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    As he walked over to the chair Ammon couldn't help but comment "Such a beautiful morning." Karlie closed her eyes and inhaled the ocean air, feeling the sun and breeze dance on her face. "Mmm. Yes it is" she said softly. "You sound exactly like Adrastria - er well, your mother, last night" Ammon said warmly as he sat down. Karlie couldn't help but hear the gentle devoted love Ammon had for her mother when he said it, and couldn't help but beam with happiness that he still felt that way after everything that had happened. "Told you that the mornings here were fabulous" Karlie softly joked. "That you did, my dear, that you did" Ammon replied as he sat down.
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    After a moment he asked "So.. How are you doing, dear? Did you sleep ok? I'm sure it's been all quite a lot to take in." "It would have been a whole lot easier to take in if this hadn't been all my mom's fault. And not even fault, but I mean I use to think I could trust her more than anyone else in the world yet she's lied to me my whole LIFE, more than anyone else ever even could have. I can't even imagine how you and Niella must feel after she just left you both." The words came out of Karlie's mouth before she could stop them. They stung her as they did, knowing that had her mom heard them she would have been crushed. But her mom wasn't here and right now she didn't care, SHE was crushed. Ammon frowned, hearing the pain in Karlie's voice hurt his own heart. He sat quiet for a minute and then said "Yes, you're right, you know. It was very hard for both Niella and I. I'm sure there were many times in Niella's life growing up that she wondered if her mother just didn't love her. I know I did. And here come to find out it was all so your mom could live on the beach, too, right? Talk about betrayal." "Wait, what??" Karlie asked, giving her eyes a strong blink and her head a quick shake. She wasn't sure she heard him right.
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    "I mean here we are decades later and she has everything she ever wanted, right? But hey, far be it from any of us to step in her way" Ammon did his best Magdy impression. "Nooo no no no uh uh" Karlie fiercely defied, shaking her head and finger. "If there's two things I know about my mom it's 1. that the only reason she left was because she felt she had no choice, it was what was best for you and Niella, not her. And 2. Even though I didn't know why then, my mother's heart has been broke ever since. This ocean is full of the tears she cried herself to sleep shedding night after night. She doesn't have a selfish cell in her whole body!" Ammon threw his hands up "I surrender I surrender! Whew you certainly are as fierce as she is over her loved ones! " he protested with a sly smile.
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    Karlie sat staring blankly at Ammon for a second, her own words reverberating in her mind as she slowly realized what Ammon had just done before bursting into laughter. "Ugh! You're as bad as Niella! She pulls that reverse psychology shtick on me all the time!" "Well who do you think she learned it from? She is the apple, I am the tree." Ammon playfully boasted. Then, clapping his hands and rubbing them together, he added "Well the day isn't going to grow time just for me! I guess I should head to Nautilus." "You're still going to work?? Man, tough boss!" Karlie chided, knowing full well Niella would would shake her head in feigned disapproval of her father's hard core work ethic.
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    As Ammon started to stand, Karlie did the same, though just a slight bit slower and more awkwardly. Ammon offered his arm and helped her up. She threw him off guard when she wrapped her arms around him after she was standing. "Thank you so much Mr. Anni.. Dad" she added quietly. Ammon felt a leprechaun kick him in the Adam's apple riiight before he felt one kick him in his slightly out of shape belly. "Oh! My! What a kick! You've got quite a little fighter in there!" he said, surprised. "Hehe yes, he or she is quite strong. Go on, you can feel, Papa" Karlie smiled warmly. Instantly Ammon felt his roll in Karlie's life was forever cemented and it filled him with love and a hope he had never felt before.
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    And then *boop* he felt another kick under his hand. He looked at Karlie and they both chuckled. "Well I'm off!" he said, standing and gave Karlie's hand a soft squeeze before turning toward the door. On his way in he heard Karlie's phone vibrate on the table while Linda Belcher's voice said "I love showahs and mornings and bologna and turtles. ... I'm Linda. I love showahs and morni" before Karlie answered the call. "I. I didn't wake you did I?" Shari asked, tentatively. Karlie had shown her mother love and grace at the end of the night but Shari knew she still had a lot to answer for.
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    "No Mom, you didn't wake me." Karlie said flatly, still not ready to completely forgive her mother. "How are you feeling?" Shari asked, her voice heavy with guilt and concern. "You know Mom, everyone keeps asking me that - how I'm feeling and I really just wish they'd stop because I'm not really sure what I'm suppose to say!" Karlie snapped, throwing her hand up on the air in frustration. She was as frustrated with herself as she was at her mom. She wasn't mad that people had asked her how she felt, it was just a convenient target to throw daggers at rather than directly at her mother. She loved her mother fiercely but feeling like her mother had kept such a huge thing from her, ABOUT her - that really hurt. And Shari knew it. "I'm so sorry Karlie Ana. How can I help? What can I do?" Shari implored.
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    "I don't know, mom, how you're suppose to help. I don't know even know what I am but all I could think about all night long was what that might mean for my baby!" her panic poking it's ugly head out from Karlie's normally "together and in control" demeanor. "Well, I might actually be able to help you with that" Shari tried to ease her daughter's tension. "Oh Right. And I'm suppose to trust you?" Karlie said, bitterly. Shari gasped the blow to her heart hurt so much. "Karlie Ana," she said softly, "I know you're very hurt right now and you have every single reason to be angry at me for.. all that I've done.. But please just think back to two days ago. Have I ever done anything else that hurt you? Did that Karlie trust that me? I promise, with my whole heart, that I will never hold anything from you again, or lie to you ever. I'm not asking you to trust me forever. But if you can just trust me right now, I will help you get some answers."
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    Halfway through her mother's words, Karlie was already filled with regret. She had always trusted her mother, without question. Her mother had never ever lied about anything... except this... "I'm sorry Mom, I'm just feeling very overwhelmed and I really am trying to understand but right now I'm just very worried about this baby. I mean am I half mermaid and half genie? Half witch and half genie? Human?? What does that mean for this baby?? Is going to be some kind of mermaid--genie-faerie-witch-human freak? With wings and scales and blue skin and a pointy hat and a giant sense of entitlement?? Can that even happen??" Karlie's panic was rising again. "Karlie Ana take a deep breath. If you can trust me, come to my house, I have something to show you. I promise you, whatever answers you need I will help you find, ok?" "Ok, yes, alright." Karlie replied, letting herself be comforted by her mother's words. "I'll be right over." Shari told Karlie she loved her and as she hung up she steeled herself for what was in store. Today Shari would find herself again in the worst, most painful place on earth. But there was no way to avoid it.Cs4jtIW.jpg


    When Karlie got to Shari's, she was surprised to find her mom waiting on the porch. Karlie gave her mom a sad but loving smile as she climbed the couple steps up and they just hugged. "I'm so sorry" Shari managed to whisper as she held her daughter close. Karlie squeezed her mom tighter. "C'mon, it's out back" Shari said. "What is??" Karlie asked. "The water taxi" Shari replied. As they rode, Shari directed the water taxi around various water obstacles and small islands. Finally she directed him to a particular patch of beach on one of the smaller uninhabited islands, usually surrounded by a thick fog. Shari arranged for the taxi to return in two hours and as it sped away she started making her way to the end of the beach where the trees and bushes all but completely camouflaged a dilapidated shack. "Mom, come on, enough, where are we?" Karlie's patience wearing even thinner. Shari turned to Karlie and held her hands up. "Ok, now don't freak out. No one lives here anymore. Sh-she's been dead for 20 years..."
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    "Wait, is this where that old crone that blackmailed you lives?!?" Karlie demanded incredulously. "Lived" Shari reminded her. "I hadn't been back here since that ... day until you told me you were pregnant. I knew you would need answers so after looking up land deeds at City Hall I found out that she died over 20 years ago and had no living relative. I figured if we were going to be able to find answers anywhere, it'd be in there. I was just trying to figure out how to tell you this when.. yesterday happened." Shari explained. "So now you know, and all that's left to do is for us to go look for answers." she finished. As if the wind was warning them personally, it howled through the broken windows. Shari turned and Karlie followed her up the stairs. The outside was even creepier up close, with cobwebs and moss and ivy growing through the neglected boards. Karlie felt a strange pull to the place within her, from some deep but familiar place buried inside. It 🌺🌺🌺🌺 her skin like electricity as she stepped inside.
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    When Ammon got to his office, he immediately began combing the AI code for any sort of clues. After laboring through the code that he barely recognized it became clear that any clue would be in deciphering the parts of the code he didn't recognize and then determining, if possible, the parameters and function of the AI. He worked straight through lunch, making little progress. If he had thought just combing through the code looking for clues was laborious, deciphering the code and determining the parameters and function was nothing short of mental Olympics of galactic proportions, but it was crucial to determining how his AI came to be used without his knowledge or permission. He had always known that the propitiatory code could be dangerous in the wrong hands so literally no one else had ever even seen the code. The hard drives for the traversers were in his suitcase when he arrived and were still there as far as he knew.. Using his base code as a key, Ammon set to work. It was going to be a long day.
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    As Karlie followed Shari into the shack they found it only in nominally better shape on the inside than out, but at least the floors felt solid, and mostly the walls. Strange pictures, portraits of people with harsh stares, bizarre artifacts and talismen, and jars of the grotesque filled every surface, every dark nook and cranny. All highlighted by the occasional beam of sunlight piercing the dank shadowy places with shards of light hazed by blooms of dust like spears through the occasional hole in the walls or reflection off shards of broken window that lay scattered about. "Oh, Tim Burton's summer home!" Karlie said wryly as she looked around. Shari said "This was the scariest place I had ever been when i got here. It actually feels bigger right now - there were animals in here! Snakes and lizards, a giant ol' crow, an old scrappy one eyed cat mean as sin, a couple of chickens I'm pretty sure. And these screens had just cloth draped over an old rod that just blew in the wind. And she stunk, like moldy vegetables and sweat and chewing tobacco." Shari couldn't help herself, the memory was so visceral. She curled in on herself and closed her eyes "And her bony fingers gripped my arm so hard I thought it might come off if I tried to run. Where would I have run, anyway? All I had was you and if they found out about you..." Shari's voice trailed.
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    "Good heavens Mom! How horrible. I'm so sorry, I really just did not understand at all." Karlie felt like the most selfish brat in the universe. She hadn't even once thought of how hard this place might have been for her until seeing it for herself. She had been so worried about herself and her baby, and so angry at her mother for a choice that really was no choice at all that she hadn't even stopped to think about revisiting one of the worst days of her life. "Listen," Karlie clapped her hands "Let's look for clues here for a bit and then dip our toes in the water before the taxi comes back, ok? Rinse this place off of us! I'll take this side, you take that and then once we're done we're out of here for good!" Karlie found herself comforting her mom, partially in hopes of making up for the gigantic heel she had been, and partially to let her mom know how much she appreciated the immense effort just to help Karlie find any answers she could.
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    They split up and Shari soon found herself staring at a strange glowing orb trying to figure out what it was. Clearly it wasn't a "crystal ball" because it was on it's own stand, marked with various markings including phases of the moon. From behind her she heard some clanking and Karlie saying "I wonder what this is..." "I wouldn't touch anything honey, I distinctly remember a voice coming from one of these things in here" Shari warned right before she heard a very very faint low warbling. Turning around she saw Karlie had pulled out some sort of old machinery, all rusted and rickety. The center of it spinned and the warbling seemed to be emitting from it. "Hey did you touch that??" Shari asked before realizing Karlie's eyes had glazed over and she seemed to be completely unaware to anything else around her, swaying as though she'd drank a bottle of vodka. "Karlie Ana!" Shari said, snapping her fingers in front of Karlie's face to no avail. "Karlie Ana!" she clapped this time. The warbling was getting louder, deeper, more intense when suddenly the warbling stopped, Karlie's eyes fell closed and her swaying stopped. Looking around in a panic Shari grabbed a pillow from the nearby bed and *PFFT* hit Karlie square across the face.
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    The blow seemed to immediately bring Karlie back to her senses. "HEY!" Karlie protested after recovering. Shari explained what happened, begging her forgiveness, worrying that things still might be fragile between them. Shari's words seemed to ring true and bring a faint familiarity with what she was saying and Karlie soon forgave her, her memory returning as her wits came back to her.
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    Shari wrapped her daughter tight into her arms, relieved she was seemingly alright. "I really don't know what I was thinking bringing you here, with the baby and all. I'm sure there are other ways to find out. Her family line is centuries old so this can't be the only place we can look. Let's go take that walk, babybird, dip our feet. K?" Shari urged gently. "Ok Mama, we can go" Karlie agreed even though she felt more at ease than she had in the last 24 hours, almost as if she belonged here. Just as her mom opened the door to leave, the light's path passed over a book on the floor. The threaded title on it's cover almost glowed as if it were lit from within. "De la Barthe: Une Histoire Vraie et Puissante" Before she knew it, Karlie found it in her hand. She looked back upon the room, knowing it would not be the last time she saw it, stepped out and closed the door behind her.
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    Across Isla Paradiso at Nautilus Ammon was just about to toss in the towel for the day and make his way home when it hit him like a freight train. There it was, staring him in the face the entire time. He had been struggling trying to determine the function and perimeters of this AI when it suddenly became clear that was in fact the entire problem. There was no function other than to communicate and there were very very little, if any, perimeters, sort of a computer version of "by any means necessary. But that was just the headlights of the train. The real metal and power of the hit came when Ammon realized the only actual parameters he had found were two separate numbers. One of them was the latitude and longitude of the science lab. The other was the binary equivalent to his social security number. He called for a water taxi, loaded the code into a flash drive, and made his way for the door. As he closed in on the front entrance he could hear someone, a male, outside speaking in a poorly hushed but angry voice. Great, some employee was clearly experiencing personal drama during work hours. Ammon pushed the front door open intent on B-lining it for the docks as quickly and quietly was possible. Seeing the unmistakable sparkle of faerie wings from just outside his field of vision he found himself already more involved than he wanted to be and quickened his pace. Just as he reached the stairs to the doc he thought he made out "No, No, she has no idea. She's off off on prenatal leave so she'll have no idea until I'm long gone" but before his mind could process it he was already at the bottom of the stairs. He decided to shake it off. He hadn't had sleep in a day and a half, found his long lost love, a daughter he never knew he had, and at least half the words coincided with the clicking of his heels on the boardwalk. "You're beat, old boy, get home before you start hallucinating, too." He thought to himself.
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    (continued below)
    Post edited by AbellaKellaher on
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited August 2019
    When the water taxi neared the island that the houseboat was docked at, Karlie's had gone numb from crossing them so hard on the ride home. She was sure the octuplets that she MUST be carrying were all dancing directly on her bladder. As they stepped onto the house boat's deck she raced past Shari, bound for the nearest little girl's room at top speed. She threw the door open and quickly dashing for the stairs. Passing Ammon who was just coming in from the back deck she shouted "Hi Dad, By Dad, bathroom emergency!" As she hit the spiral staircase she realized what she said and absolutely knew her mother would have caught it. "Dad?" Shari dreamily questioned Ammon with a bashful smile.
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    Ammon reached for Shari's hands. "We had some time together this morning. You really have raised an incredible daughter, Adrastria." he said. "Is Niella around? Have you had some time to talk with her?" Shari couldn't help but be hopeful, though she knew Ammon had planned to work today. "No, she was napping when I got home. I thought I'd wait for her to come to me. I've always let her talk to me on her own terms." "Then I should probably slip out before she awakes. It's better if you have some time together first I think.." Shari said, leading Ammon to the door by the hand. She stopped and wrapped her arms around him. "Oh I don't know how she's ever going to forgive me. Oh please tell me, Hapi, please tell me she'll somehow someday forgive me?"
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    "The young woman I raised is kind, and generous, and selfless, and non judgmental, and understanding. Just like her mother." Ammon said, staring deep into Adrastria's eyes. "Of course she'll forgive you" he said, reaching out and stroking her cheek. When Shari got home she visited her own restroom first thing, herself. She had just splashed cold water onto her face after washing her hands when she caught her reflection in the mirror. Hapimou had told her that her skin was as soft as when he met her but she knew it wasn't true. "You look like a dried out old scarecrow" she scolded herself. Why hadn't she taken better care of herself?? Tomorrow she'd see about skin cream and whatever else ladies her age did. Maybe she'd think about a different haircut. She knew she'd never look like how Hapi remembered her again, but she certainly could look better, she decided. Right about then Niella stumbled, still drowzy and slightly off balance, as she waddled to the patio set to join her dad, who was reading the newspaper just like he had every night after work when she was growing up.
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    "Old habits die hard" she giggled, sitting down. Ammon folded the paper and put it down. "Did you nap well, little one?" Ammon asked. "I'm getting less little by the day" Niella patted her belly, and added "but yes I did, Daddy, thank you." "Listen, I know we haven't had a chance to talk about all that happened yesterday, and we should, but we have something more urgent to talk about. Niella I was able to decipher the AI code today. I was able t.." "Dad that's incredible! How wer.." "Hold on, you need to let me finish, little one." Ammon interjected, lifting his finger. "I was able to decipher it because I already knew the core code... Because it's mine. It's the AI I created for the excavation transversers" Ammon finished. "How is that even possible, Dad?? You kept that code strictly to yourself I thought." "I did, I even brought the traverser hard drives here with me. And that's not the only question deciphering it raised. But I think I know how we can find out." Ammon told her.
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    "I think we need to build out the schematics and then load the AI into it." Ammon stated, sounding less sure than he usually did when he spoke. "Normally I would say that sounded risky but I'm sure Alex would be able to foresee anything dangerous and find a work around for it" Niella decided after some consideration. The two spent the next two hours outlining what the immediate and longer term plans should be. Even though the next day was Saturday, the two were pretty sure most if not all of the team would be putting extra work in. Though the work pace had lessened slightly and the group's initial excitement had mellowed a bit, that excitement had been replaced with intense curiosity - the benchmark of every good scientist. Ammon would meet with Alex and Masao first thing and put this new plan under the most strict of NDA. With the discovery of Nautilus's map coordinates and Ammon's social security number within the code, no one else in the team could be told. Niella trusted everyone on her team but it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that one of them could have been compromised through coercion or without their knowledge. They would see if Alex could even determine what the device was or what it was for first. Then they'd know if any additional equipment was needed.
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    Eventually Niella brought up the previous days events. "Listen Dad, I know you're right and we need to talk but I'm still trying to process it all. I just need more time to work out how I feel. Just know that I still love you, I still love Karlie, and yes I do still love Shari. It's just something I need to make sure I understand my feelings on before we talk, is that ok?." Niella had always been careful about such things. "Of course little one, nothing could be more understandable. It's very late already as it is." As they stood up to hug goodnight Niella's tummy let out a slow, very loud gurgle. "What's that you say?" Ammon said, cupping his ear over her belly. "Your getting crowded in there? Oh let me see" Ammon put his hand gently on Niella's belly. "Oh, Yes, uh huh, I see. Well yes I think you might start preparing yourself to move to bigger quarters. That means get rest and plenty of veggies until moving day, Papa says so." Niella giggled. "I like the sound of that" she said hugging her father. "Veggies?" Ammon asked. "No, - Papa."
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    Post edited by AbellaKellaher on
  • emorrillemorrill Posts: 6,246 Member
    @AbellaKellaher Wow! This was a deep chapter and you are such a great writer. :star:
    I don't blame Karlie in the least for how she feels!
    Ammon is so wise... :blush: He reminds me of Michael Holland in my story. ;)
    Not only did that reverse psychology work well on her, but it validated her feelings of hurt and it also made her see just how much she still cares for her mom. <3 Well played Ammon! (Now if I can use that wisdom in the future with my daughter. ;) )
    The dialogue between Karlie and Shari was fantastically written! :star: I could feel the deep emotions between both women.
    Interesting with the abandoned house of the Blackmailer...
    As if the wind was warning them personally, it howled through the broken windows.
    ^Oooh, I like how you wrote that. :)
    No! The scene switches to Ammon! :(;):p
    deciphering the code and determining the parameters and function was nothing short of mental Olympics of galactic proportions
    ^Ha ha! Right!? :lol: That is me with math!
    Oh yay we are back to Karlie and Shari! :relieved:
    Once again you epically describe the creepiness of the old beach shack. ;):star:
    Truly, Shari is a very selfless person. <3
    Well that warbling spinner thing and it's effect on Karlie was a bit scary there for a minute. :flushed: Shari whacks her with a pillow! :lol: Gotta do what you gotta do right?
    Hmm...what's with that book? 🤔
    WHO was saying, "she has no idea and won't until I'm gone?" :open_mouth:
    ----
    We've ALL been there with the baby dancing on our bladder! :lol: (Well, all of us who've been pregnant. :p )
    I hope Niella comes around soon, but can't blame her for feeling just as hurt or even more than Karlie.
    Aww, that moment between Ammon (Hapi) and Shari (Adrastria). <3
    Oh Shari you look great!
    Ammon talking to the baby belly, that was so cute! :blush:
    Uh oh, did Karlie head on back to the beach shack? By herself!? :flushed:
    I very much look forward to more! I'm loving this story! :smiley:
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    < 3 Harvey < 3
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    emorrill wrote: »
    @AbellaKellaher Wow! This was a deep chapter and you are such a great writer. :star:
    I don't blame Karlie in the least for how she feels!
    Ammon is so wise... :blush: He reminds me of Michael Holland in my story. ;)
    Not only did that reverse psychology work well on her, but it validated her feelings of hurt and it also made her see just how much she still cares for her mom. <3 Well played Ammon! (Now if I can use that wisdom in the future with my daughter. ;) )

    The qualities of good men traverse many forms <3 It doesn't surprise me in the least that we value the same character traits :)

    I love the way you put that - "it validated her feelings of hurt and it also made her see just how much she still cares for her mom." It was a dialog that really took a bit of consideration because, imagining myself in either of their shoes, it was important that he didn't alienate her or make her feel he was picking sides, but, as you said, remind her how much she and her mother mean to each other.

    And may we all be that wise in the moment with our children!


    The dialogue between Karlie and Shari was fantastically written! :star: I could feel the deep emotions between both women.

    Thank you! :blush: I'm glad it's conveying!

    Oh yay we are back to Karlie and Shari! :relieved:
    Once again you epically describe the creepiness of the old beach shack. ;):star:
    Truly, Shari is a very selfless person. <3
    Well that warbling spinner thing and it's effect on Karlie was a bit scary there for a minute. :flushed: Shari whacks her with a pillow! :lol: Gotta do what you gotta do right?
    Hmm...what's with that book? 🤔

    :joy::joy: I figured it was a better bet than trying to splash anything she might think was water into her face! Could have ended up a vampire or something! :joy:
    WHO was saying, "she has no idea and won't until I'm gone?" :open_mouth:

    Hmmmm, who indeed... If only there was some way to see.... ;)

    ----
    We've ALL been there with the baby dancing on our bladder! :lol: (Well, all of us who've been pregnant. :p )
    I hope Niella comes around soon, but can't blame her for feeling just as hurt or even more than Karlie.
    Aww, that moment between Ammon (Hapi) and Shari (Adrastria). <3
    Oh Shari you look great!
    Ammon talking to the baby belly, that was so cute! :blush:
    Uh oh, did Karlie head on back to the beach shack? By herself!? :flushed:
    I very much look forward to more! I'm loving this story! :smiley:

    I'm so happy you're enjoying it! I have to say it's quite an experience, writing a story. Never really done it before and I rather enjoy it!

    Next chapter incoming next comment!
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited September 2019
    author's note: GAH!!! I wrote this, hit enter, and half of what I wrote disappeared!! So frustrating!

    The next morning Ammon was headed through the tech lab to Alex's office when he ran into Masao. "Mr. Hamada, how fortunate I've run into you. I was hoping you might have a moment for a quick meeting with Alex if she's available." Ammon asked. "Well, I was just on my way to meet with Dr. Alto in the Earth Sciences lab, but I do have a few minutes I can spare" Masao replied. "Thank you, Mr. Hamada, this is helpful. I have instructions from Dr. Antoniou that involve you" Ammon thanked Masao. After finding Alex's office empty, they then made their way into her private workshop. As they did Ammon filled Hamada in with what he had discovered within the AI, leaving out his connection to the core code.
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    "So really, I think what we need to do is determine what the schematics are for and then we will have a better idea of what this AI is meant to communicate..." Ammon explained after they stepped through the receding bookcase in Alex's office. Amid the clanging of whatever Alex was working on, Ammon found himself repeating his words louder but both Masao and Ammon heard Alex loud and clear when she said, half distracted "I told you both that last year." Both Ammon and Masao stopped dead in their tracts. Turning, almost in unison, they both stared at Alex trying to decide if she was talking to them or not. "Alex, what do you mean last year?" Masao questioned "We're talking about the.." "yes yes, I mean next year, don't be so petty, you know what I meant. Anyway, what do you think those are??" Alex said sweetly dismissive like a grandma excusing a cookie stealing grandchild before dinner.
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    "Alex, what are you talking about??" Ammon probed. Alex pointed to schematic diagrams on the wall directly behind Masao. "I could have sworn I told you. I get the sequence of things messed up lately." Alex said, a little less sure of herself than usual. Masao, use to Alex's eccentricities but not her insecurity, reassured "I'm sure it's just the long hours, Alex. We all need to make sure to take Sunday..." "Tomorrow" Alex interjected. "Yes, tomorrow, off and come back on Monday with fresh heads." he finished. Alex then revealed what she had worked out that the schematics were for. "That makes complete sense now." Ammon responded. "Listen," Masao interrupted "Please get any files to me that either of you have so that I can take a look at this later but for now I need to lead to my meeting with Lopita. She called me last night eager to share some updates." "I'll call Dr. Antoniou and.." "Who??" Alex demanded. ".. Niella" Masao answered. ".. Niella, and update her." Ammon finished.
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    Ammon shut his office door and dialed Niella. When she answered the phone, Ammon filled her in. "It's a disc." He said. "A disc? A halodisc??" Niella quizzed, excitedly. "If by halodisc you mean the disc that displays the projected AI, then yes, that's exactly what it is." Ammon answered. "Hmmm.. Is Javiera in today?" she asked. "Yes I believe so. Her lab lights were on when I passed them earlier." Ammon answered. "Ok, you're going to need to fill her in on this. Whatever materials Alex needs, she needs to make sure Akoni has full purchase authorization and she and Emily need to get as much info from Damien and, ugh, the other one, that they can." They hung up and Ammon made his way to Niella's office, where Javiera had moved to while Niella was on leave. He found her in and quickly filled her in, but under strict orders to keep their task limited to the two of them. It'd be easier to find out of there had been a compromise if each department was limited to it's own projects.
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    After leaving Alex's office, Masao headed toward the Earth Science lab. He found Lopita working at the science station. "Oh Good, You're here." Lopita said as she typed something into the science station's interface. "So what do you know about pollen?" she asked as she turned to face him. "I know the basics. It functions to protect the male genetic material necessary for germination. Some pollen is light enough to be airborne, anemophilic, others are too heavy and only spread through physical means such as insects or animals." Masao answered. "Entomophilic, right. And that pollen releases pheromones that attracts the insects in order to aid the pollination process, along with many other functions. Each plant's pollen structure is based on it's needs. There are many types of plant pheromones, attraction, trail, marker, aggregation, attractant, repellant, arrestant, stimulant, alarm, etc." "Yes?" Masao probed. "Well what if I told you the insects on the meteors were attracted to pollen on both the interior and exterior of the main meteor? And what if I told you that the pheromones in that pollen were able to transmute themselves depending on the needs of the recipient?"
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    "Here, it'll be easier to show you. Take a look" Lopita said, stepping out of Masao's way to look through the science station's microscope. As he peered into the microscope Lopita explained. "Slide 1 is pheromones from the pollen sample taken from the meteor. Notice the cell structure." "Ok?" Masao asked, curious as to where this was going. "Ok, compare that to slide 2, also from the pollen from the meteor." "Hmmm. Ok, could this possibly be pollen from a different plant?" Masao queried. "No, because that's from the same sample. I simply exposed it to two separate types of insects, ones that required different pheromone messages." Lopita answered. "That's... That's quite interesting Dr. Alto, quite interesting indeed" Masao said as he stood up, tapping his finger on the viewfinder.
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    "And that's not all," Lopita continued. "Take a look at the readings." she said, pointing to the interface monitors. Masao turned and tapped in the command to bring up the analysis details. He soon noticed there were readings for all insect types - everything from coleoptera - or beetles, to lepidoptera aka butterflies. "I've run Mantids, lacewings, leafhoppers..." Lopita listed off the different types on her fingers. "And in every single instance pollen pheromones from the same sample produced different reactions every time." Masao stepped away from the station. "I take it this is something never seen before." "Never, nothing like it at all." Lopita answered, her excitement becoming harder for her to maintain composure through.
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    "So how do we explain this," Masao gestured to the screens, "Are we looking at a new kind of plant?" "Well," Lopita started, "I wondered that same thing, but after all of these comparisons I just don't think that's likely. So then I started wracking my brain, thinking possibly something on the meteor caused the change. Then it hit me." She looked at Masao with huge eyes, her excitement clearly close to the brink. "Genetic engineering." "You think this pollen was engineered?? That would indicate it was placed on the meteors before they got to the lab. I'm not sure how that would be even possible. We seized control of the location almost as soon as the fires were put out. Monday I want you to run as many tests as you can think of. We need to be sure this isn't just a natural genetic mutation. We also need to see if we can determine what kind of plant produced the pollen" Masao instructed Lopita. "I'll get a few of the longer tests started before I leave. That way I can have the results first thing Monday." Lopita agreed.
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    The next morning Ammon stepped out onto the deck of the houseboat to find Niella reading at the patio set. He sat down next to her and looked off into the distance. He was normally incredibly patient when it came to his daughter working through emotions, coming to him when she had already worked through them or when she needed advice in order to do so, but this time was different. He found himself unable to concentrate, thoughts of Adrastria flooding over him like a flash flood in a dry lake bed, whenever he wasn't diligent enough to keep focused. And he was incredibly worried for his daughter, too. While he hadn't really lied to her, other than her name, he had dealt with most of her questions growing up with diversion tactics and he now realized how that could have really complicated her feelings. Though he closed his eyes and took a deep breath trying to calm himself, he was full of nervous energy. "Alright," Niella said, snapping her book shut, "Out with it, I can't stand your fidgetiness. It's... weird...." "I'm sorry, little one, forgive me. I'm not trying to be impatient, I just can't help but wonder how you're feeling about... your mother." Ammon said, trepidatiously.
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    "I know it's only been two days, but it was a very large thing that happened and we haven't spoken about it at all. I am concerned." Ammon tried to gently explain. "I don't know, Dad. I still feel angry. I know no one lied but I guess in my mind growing up Mom wasn't with us because she needed to be rescued. Like, I know it's silly, but I always imagined her being held captive by an evil witch, or something. And you were going to find her and rescue her and we would all be a family again. I got older, and yeah I knew there was no witch to fight, but that same idea, that Mom needed us to find her to save her, has always been there. And that's not how it was at all. I mean did she ever even look for us?? My whole life I only ever wanted two things. For me to have my mom back, and you to have the love of your life back." Niella's pain and confusion were obvious, but so was the love she felt for her father, and for the mother she never knew. "But little one, isn't that what we have a chance for now? Do you not understand her reasons?" Ammon offered gently. Niella looked out onto the water. His words where the same that had been repeating in her head since that night. And she knew that her father must be riddled with conflict, trapped between his love for his daughter and what she knew was his soul mate.
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    She crinkled her nose. She knew that she'd have to eventually acknowledge that she was only making things miserable for her dad, even though that was the farthest thing from what she wanted. "Listen Dad, I'm not saying that I don't want her in my life, or that I don't want her in yours. I know you love her - or at least the her you use to know. And I know I loved her before I knew who she was. And I know the only way forward is for us to find out." She sighed, deep and long in resignation. "And I know it's only a matter of time before we're faced with having to. I guess I just feel like I want to talk to her, to tell her how her being gone effected me my whole life." "Little one, what do you mean it's only a matter of time? If you need time, you can have it. You don't have to see her unless you want to, and I won't see her unless you're secure with it. Whenever that time comes we can go see her. Sunlit Tides isn't that far away." "Uh, Dad... She doesn't live in Sunlit Tides anymore. Karlie bought her a house, here, on the island, when we got back from Egypt, before the meteor."
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    "You mean she wasn't just here visiting?? I don't know why I thought that... I guess listening to her tell stories of Karlie growing up, I just assumed she still lived in the same place. So, uh, she lives here then?" Ammon was clearly flustered. "Yeah Dad, she lives right over there, like two blocks away" Niella couldn't help but feel charmed by his nervousness at the revelation. She had always known her dad to be calm, cool and collected, even when he was having fun. She had never seen him flushed in her whole life. It reminded her of when she and Connor were first dating, Connor always shuffling nervously, with a giant boyish grin from ear to ear. "Oh, heh heh, imagine that. I, uh, heh, had no idea." Ammon chuckled in awkward anxiousness. "Oh alright! I surrender I surrender!" Niella threw her hands up in front of her.
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    "Liiisten, Dad," Niella struggling to stand up with her ever growing belly "we'll figure it out." Ammon stood up too, helping Niella by the elbow. "How could I ever keep you from the love of your life? What kind of a daughter would I be?" she said tenderly as she wrapped her arms around him. Life had gotten so crazy - so crazy so quickly. But through it all Niella knew that her father loved her more than life itself and just knowing that made her realize just how much he deserved to have his every single dream come true if she could do anything about it. Ammon pulled back, searching Niella's eyes. "Are you sure, little one? Are you absolutely sure because no matter how close she lives I would never do anything to cause you pain." he reassured her. She was filled with the same gentle love for him that he had always shown her. "Dad, get out your phone." When he did, she gave him Shari's number. "Now call her. It's Sunday, she'll have the day off." As she walked inside, she heard him hit dial and her heart swelled with happiness for him.
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    Post edited by AbellaKellaher on
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    edited September 2019
    As his cell connected and rang, it felt like time was moving at double speed. His heart raced and his palms started to sweat. When her phone rang, Shari was reading the Sunday paper on the deck, piggy snoozing next to her. "Hello Adrastria, it's me" said the voice on the other end. "I hope I am not interrupting anything" Ammon said. "No no of course not." She replied and then added "Hi" in a voice so soft she barely recognized it as her own. Ammon, however, was instantly transported to nights on his back porch looking up at the stars with her. The softness of her voice as she gazed in graced wonder... "I was wondering if you had any plans today? I'd like to see you if I may." His deep voice almost jittery with anxious anticipation. "I was planning on taking PiggyGirl out to a park as soon as I was done with the morning paper, but that's it. Have you spoken to Niella?" Now it was Shari that was nervous. She knew that if he said no that she'd also have to tell him no, and that was about as opposite from what she wanted as possible. "Yes, I have. Can I see you? Maybe accompany you and Piggygirl to this park?" Ammon asked, hopefully. His answer washed such a sense of excitement over her she burst out giggling when she noticed that Piggygirl, hearing her favorite word, had awoke. "Well she's heard me now, so I suppose you'll just have to." She said, "It's on the main island so we can swing by and pick you up on our way over. No use in taking two vehicles." she added.
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    As Shari got Piggygirl into the truck and headed over, Ammon walked up the dock and footpath to wait for Shari up at the road. When they got to the to Ichtaca Community Gardens gate, Piggygirl raced ahead, excited to explore a new place.
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    "What a beautiful park!" Shari exclaimed. "It is. I use to bring Niella here when she was little. I thought since she had no yard it was a great place for her to feel grounded, so to speak. Have you never been here?" Ammon asked. Just as Shari was about to answer she felt a cold, wet nose pressing a stick into her hand. Giggling she said "Oh it's time to play, is it?" and took the stick to play fetch. After a few throws, however, Piggygirl trotted off with the stick. "Well! I guess we're done with that game" Shari said, giggling again. "Well, why don't you show me around since you've been here before" Shari suggested, answering Ammon's question from earlier.
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    They wandered through the garden, reading the various labels on garden stakes describing what each plant was while Piggygirl romped about, sniffing this plant, chasing that bug. After a bit Shari stopped and turned to face Ammon. "So what did you and Niella talk about? Does she still hate me?" Shari asked pensively. "Hate?? No no Adrastria, she doesn't hate anyone." Ammon said tenderly as he took Shari's hand, his deep voice soothing. "In fact she lead me to believe she is quite fond of you. She's just still a bit confused. She still remembers the pain of growing up without you, how she worried after you so. I think that maybe you two should try to find some time to talk." "She worried about me??" Shari questioned, never having had the thought cross her mind and pained by guilt at the knowledge. "Yes, I guess she thought you were locked away in a castle somewhere in need of rescue" Ammon chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. He took Shari's other hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "Believe me, Adrastria, I would not be here if I felt any worry. She was, in fact, the person who gave me your number... Right before she told me to call you." This eased Shari a bit, though she still felt guilt. She smiled softly before turning to continue on.
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    "Oh my! How I do miss my garden fresh tomatoes! I talked my parents into allowing me to have a small garden back home, though we didn't really need any food besides fish and kelp. I told them it would help teach me patience. It, instead, taught us all how much delicious food we had missed out on." Shari shared, nostalgically remembering her childhood. Ammon reached down and plucked a particularly fat and juicy tomato off the vine and walked over to the fountain to give it a rinse. Handing it to Shari he watched as she bit into it with great relish, juice dripping off her chin. Hapimou loved to watch Adrastria enjoy, well, just about anything. He could still see the innocent young woman he had met so many years ago, the abandon joy she took in things. He was mesmerized by her. He always had been. Shari tossed the last bites to Piggy and wiped her chin with the back of her hand. "You missed a spot." Ammon said, gently wiping the spot off her cheek with his thumb. She held Hapi's hand to her face for a minute and closed her eyes. She had missed his touch so much.
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    After a moment she let go of his hand and looked into his eyes. He could still see the pain in his love's eyes, the result of unfinished and unsettled emotions. "Oh Hapi, what should I do?" she pled. "Listen, why don't you call Karlie and see if the girls are up for a visit. Maybe then you can talk to Niella. I'll go round up Piggygirl. How does that sound?" Adrastria was so grateful for Hapimou's understanding. She desperately wanted to be with him but she just could not begin to let go of the guilt she tormented herself with and allow herself to be happy until she had earned Niella's forgiveness. When Karlie answered, however, she told her mom that they were all on the way to the Summer Festival and invited them to meet them there.
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    After dropping Piggygirl off at home, the two drove to the Summer Fest. As they turned the corner they saw Niella standing at the ice cream truck parked across the street from the festival. "Why don't you hop out here and I'll go park the truck" Ammon suggested. "Thank you" she said as she opened up the door and stepped out. As Shari walked toward Niella, Ammon slid into the driver's seat and pulled away. Before saying anything she steeled herself. She didn't expect forgiveness but she desperately wanted it. "Uh, hi kiddo" she said from behind, startling Niella and causing her to drop her frozen bunny pop.
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    "Oh my gosh! Oh honey I'm sorry! Here, let me get you another!" Shari said, slightly panicked. "No no, it's ok. The best part about being pregnant is that I get to eat whatever I want, but these days jelly bean isn't leaving me much room, I was already starting to feel full but I just was craving a taste." Niella reassured her. "Are you sure? I don't mind. I was hoping we could maybe find a nice place to talk?" Shari asked timidly. "No, I'm sure, it's fine. But there's a nice spot over here if you'd like to talk. I use to eat my lunch here when I worked at the bookstore across the street in high school." Niella responded. They walked through the small little park, sitting down on a bench at a nice secluded spot near a statue. "I suppose you have a lot of questions..." Shari said tentatively.
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    "Just one. You said we were no longer in danger, so why didn't you look for us? Dad spent years trying to find you... Didn't you want to find us??" Niella asked. Shari closed her eyes trying not to cry. The last thing she wanted was for Niella to feel guilty about anything she asked. "Of course I looked for you. When they abolished the law keeping us apart, and I took the relic back to my people, I went back to Egypt to look for you and your father, but both of our homes had been empty for years. I called his old work, Morucorp, and they said that he hadn't worked there since I left. When I came back to Sunlit Tides I worked extra shifts to save enough money to hire a private investigator but his trail went cold right where mine did - the day I left. Of course he was looking for Kynthia Mesbah, Kynthia Economos. I even ran personal ads in Egyptian newspapers off and on, hoping your father would see them. Every effort led to heartbreak. You have to understand, too, that when I left you and your dad I had nothing. I knew nothing of the world, except what I learned from watching old TV shows with your dad. I had no idea how to even get a job, or a house for that matter." She lifted her eyes and looked at Niella. "Leaving you was devastating. Paralyzing. But I had Karlie that I had to provide for, so I had to just keep moving forward. Every day. But please know, you and your father never left my thoughts."
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    Niella sat and took in what Shari said. The anger she had felt melted away and in it's place was a new kind of pain - the pain of seeing someone you love hurting. She had never thought about how foreign this world must have been for her mother or how overwhelming and even frightening those things must have been, especially with a baby. "You know, my father says that the two things I wanted most in the world growing up are right here, right now." Niella looked out, away from her mother. "But he's wrong. I'm not that little girl anymore. You'll never be able to be that mom, the mom I needed growing up. We will never be able to get back what we've lost. We can't go back in time. I still felt that pain growing up without the mother I so desperately needed. But it wasn't your fault, I know that now. You did what you had to. It's no one's fault." Niella looked at Shari and said it again. "It's no one's fault. I understand why you left. I do. And I'm sorry I wasn't very understanding of everything you've been through. I mean, my dad didn't even have to worry about putting food on the table, literally." Shari looked at Niella, tears welling in her eyes. Niella had said the one thing that Shari so desperately needed - that she understood. Shari let the silence hang in the air while she thought of how to respond. "I know you're not that little girl. And I know I'll never be able to be that mother. But I would very much like to be someone to you, now. If you'd rather not have that, I will respect it no matter how much it..." her voice trailed. "However we move forward is up to you." she finished. Niella looked to her mother, tears welling in her eyes. "I know you can't be the mother I needed then. But maybe you can be the mother I need now?" The lump in Shari's throat felt immovable. The dam holding the well of her tears from spilling broke and they tumbled from her eyes, falling on her cheeks like little high divers splashing into a deep pool. She managed to eke out "I'd like that very much" before she wrapped her daughter in her arms. They sat like that, holding each other, until their tears were finished saying the things tears do.
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    After the girls walked across the street to join everyone else, Shari gave Niella's hand a quick squeeze and headed for the washroom. The boys were already indulging their playful competitiveness seeing who could block more soccer goals. Niella spotted her dad walking quickly over to her. Noticing her puffy eyes, he placed his hand on her shoulder and asked tentatively if she was ok. "Yeah Dad, everything is wonderful." she said, unable to hide her happiness. He realized this wasn't the place to ask for details so when Niella chirped "Oooh! Snowcones!" after spying the snow cone cart, he just gave her shoulder a gentle caress, smiled and nodded towards the cart. Niella smiled back and waddled off to get a cone. Ammon spotted Shari staring at the rollerskating rink as she stepped out of the washroom and headed toward her. After a little encouragement he was able to get Shari on the rink with him.
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    When Niella was done with her snow cone she noticed Karlie watching their parents on the rink, and walked over to join her. "Boy, this one sure is rambunctious today!" Karlie said, patting her belly. Niella just stood quietly watching her parents. "Everything ok, sis?" Karlie finally asked. "Everything's good, sis." Niella answered serenely. "Weird, but good." They stood together in silence for a moment as they both took in the enormity of the last two days. "Whoooa ohh AH!" Shari squealed, arms waiving frantically as she tried to maintain her balance. The girls couldn't help but snicker. "Careful, Mom!" Karlie called to her.
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    As soon as he noticed her having a little trouble, Ammon scooted in behind Shari and grabbed her by the elbow for stability. "There you go, steady, you got this" he encouraged, his deep but soft voice full of love and amusement. "They are pretty stinkin' cute together, though, aren't they?" Karlie giggled. "They were made for each other" Niella said wistfully. She realized she hadn't even thought to ask Karlie how she was feeling about it all. Niella turned to face Karlie. "How's everything with you, sis?" She asked. It was a simple enough question that encompassed all of the complexity of the last two days. "Me?" Karlie asked. "Good. Things are good. Weird - really weird - but good." she answered. "Don't look now, but I think your favorite carnivore is on his way over here looking like a starving puppy" she added with a sniggle.
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    As predicted, when Connor got to the girls he asked "Hey, Ny? I was wondering what we were thinking about doing for dinner. All you've had is a snow cone. I'm sure The Bean is probably hungry for something a little more than flavored ice." Karlie threw her head back laughing as Niella, stifling a giggle of her own said "Oh? And what do you think The Bean would like for dinner, honey?" "Oh, I don't know, I think The Bean might be craving cheese steak sandwiches on a day like this." Connor said, hopefully. Niella smiled, charmed by his boyish enthusiasm for food. "Cheese steak sandwiches it is then. Why don't you go tell everyone and see if you can spot a picnic table, honey." she said. After Connor stepped away, she turned back towards Karlie, smiling and said "Yep. Apparently weird is what we do." and then gave Karlie, her actual sister, a hug. As she made her way to the picnic tables the boys had scooted together, the rest of the family sat there chatting among themselves. "Just the very normal chatter of a very weird family" Niella thought to herself. "My family." and suddenly she was overcome with gratitude. There were no other people alive that she wanted to face the future with, any adventure, any challenge. Shari looked up to see her daughter just gazing at her family. Smiling, she just nodded her head ever so slightly. She knew exactly what Niella was thinking, and she couldn't have agreed more.
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    Post edited by AbellaKellaher on
  • bekkasanbekkasan Posts: 8,267 Member

    @AbellaKellaher Wonderful finish to the chapter with them working things out. I loved that both Mom and Dad were more concerned with the girls first before themselves. Such beautiful love from them as parents. I sure was hoping they would talk before the babies were born!
    Glad we got a peek at the guys playing ball. It is always lovely to see them! Snicker at Conner and his sneaky way to get steak sandwiches!
    lol at him calling the baby a 'bean'. She's got a pretty big bean in there now! :smiley:
  • AbellaKellaherAbellaKellaher Posts: 822 Member
    Thanks you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! And yes, I thought it would be just awful if Niella went into labor before they worked it out. That's one of the times we need our mothers most as adult women really.

    The Boys - honestly my two favorite male sims I've ever played. I don't know why other than I love the personalities I created for them in my head when I first started playing this family.

    I think the nickname "Jelly Bean" aka The Bean came to me seeing Niella as a baby in the origin story - she reminded me of a berry blue jelly belly :lol:

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